Coping with Rent Burden: Sacrifice, Social Support, and a Better Future for Los Angeles and the Coachella Valley

Authors: Sean Angst*, University of Southern California, Jovanna Rosen, University of Southern California, Gary Painter, University of Southern California
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Urban Geography, Economic Geography
Keywords: Rent Burden, Affordability, Housing, Collective Impact, Community-Based Research, Neighborhoods, Immigration, Qualitative Research, Focus Groups, Informal Support Networks, Institutional Failure, Risk, Vulnerability, Social Justice
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Grand Ballroom A, Astor, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Households throughout the United States are simultaneously experiencing worsening inequality and an increasingly unaffordable housing market. Housing and job market conditions squeeze families in both directions; stagnating wages make it difficult for residents to earn more income required to maintain stability and severe housing costs result in those with the highest need having less income to spend. Residents are often left in the precarious situation of finding additional income or making dire trade-offs in order to secure and maintain their basic needs. This study investigates the sacrifices residents are forced to make in order to cope with rent burden and seeks to better understand how these decisions are made. In addition, the project examines the ways households leverage social support networks—both formal and informal—to meet the pressures resulting from unaffordability and share risk across the broader community. We employ a comparative case study design utilizing 40 focus group sessions across Los Angeles and the Coachella Valley to reveal how immigrant and nonimmigrant families differentially cope with the current affordability crisis in the region. Furthermore, our community-based approach highlights the goals and aspirations of residents, exposes barriers to their ideal situation, and elevates policy interventions sourced directly from participants.

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