LA, Orange Counties Lead Nation for Crammed Housing

Published on March 26th, 2014

Overpopulation, Over-Immigration Fuel Shocking Living Standards

A recent Los Angeles Times story reported shockingly overcrowded living conditions in Los Angeles and Orange County. The Census Bureau defines overcrowded as homes or apartments that have more than one person per room, excluding bathrooms.

A Census Bureau data analysis from 2008 through 2012 found that about 45 percent of Los Angeles and Orange County housing is overcrowded. The Times provided an interactive map that compares zip codes in Southern California, Northern California, New York, Houston and the Rio Grande Valley. Southern California, with 134 crowded zip codes, has more than three times as many as New York, the second most crowded with 41.

Unlike Chicago and Boston where many residents occupy high-rise apartment buildings, Southern Californians are often packed into tiny one-bedroom homes intended for a single family, but actually housing two or three families.

One reason is a shortage of affordable Southern California housing. Because buying a home is too expensive for low-income families, rentals have become increasingly scarce and more costly. Since 1990, rents in the Los Angeles Metropolitan area have gone up 20 percent, while renters’ incomes adjusted for inflation have declined 6 percent.

Immigration and births to immigrants are major contributors to overcrowding. The article noted that “crowding tends to be higher among Latinos and Asians because it is more accepted in their cultures, providing a survival strategy when workers strain to cover the rent.” Further, the story noted that “Mexican and Vietnamese Americans tend to have different views than whites or blacks do of what is ‘crowded.’”

 In 2012, Los Angeles County was 48 percent Hispanic and 14.5 percent Asian; Orange County, 34 percent Hispanic and 19 percent Asian. University of Southern California demographer Dowell Myers confirmed the link between the post-1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act’s influx of immigrants and overcrowding. Said Meyers: “That boom drew in a lot of immigrants who were very poor when they arrived.”

By 1990, Los Angeles County renters’ crowding rates were three times higher than the national average. Today, Los Angeles Hispanic households are more than 12 times as crowded as white homes. The large crowding differential is caused in part because of multiple Hispanic families living under the same roof and a higher birth rate among Latinos.

Overcrowding is a health hazard, contributes to poor school performance and can lead to anti-social behavior. More border security and strong interior enforcement that would include mandatory E-Verify would help limit illegal immigration and reduce population growth which would in turn alleviate overcrowding.

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