Los Angeles

The Outrageous Burden of Housing Costs in Southern California

Housing costs are climbing across Southern California, but low-income families are the ones being hit the hardest.

If you pay more than 30 percent of your income on housing, you're considered "burdened." Experts say it means you may not have enough for necessities like food, clothing, transportation and medical care. But a large number of people in Southern California now pay more than that.

See what percentage of people in your zip code are considered housing cost burdened by using this interactive map below. Just type your zip code into the gray search bar.

Every time Emily Martiniuk walks in to her house, she says: "I'm home!"

Six years ago, a divorce and some health issues left her without a place to call her own.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd be homeless," she said. "I couldn't pay my rent and eat. It was one or the other."

Martiniuk isn't the only one overwhelmed by the cost of housing.

The NBC4 I-Team reviewed census data and found many parts of Southern California are considered "housing cost burdened."

Zip code 90037 - the area just south of Exposition Park - is the worst.

Seventy percent of families in that area pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing.

Other hard hit areas include Koreatown and Van Nuys.

"LA has never been a particularly affordable place," said Paul Beesemyer, the Director of the California Housing Partnership.

Beesemyer said one reason Southern Californians are affected is because they don't earn as much.

"So some folks [might] say, 'well, the median rent in LA County is $2,400 a month, that's not so bad. Because you're paying $5,000 a month for that same crummy, walk up, two-bedroom in San Francisco.' Well, the issue is San Francisco is a much, much higher income place," he said.

Over the last two years, Los Angeles voters have done their part, passing several measures expected to create more than a billion dollars for affordable housing.

In November, voters will decide on the "veterans and affordable housing act," potentially dedicating another $4 billion.

"It's going to take time. Because we didn't get here overnight," Beesemyer said.

Martiniuk believes rent control is another answer, but that is of course a hotly debated topic and varies from city to city.

"Everybody should have a sanctuary," she said.

Today, she lives in permanent, supportive housing called Section 8: The only way she can afford a roof over her head.

"This is my sanctuary," she said.

If you pay more than 30 percent of your income toward housing, you are officially considered "burdened." The I-Team's Lolita Lopez explains for the NBC4 News June 28, 2018.
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