Empty Garages: The Answer to California’s Housing Shortage?

The bedroom nook area of an accessory dwelling unit built in Los Angeles by LA-Más, a nonprofit designgroup. Credit: Stephen Schauer, via LA-Más

“Steps from USC campus, a modern, newly built detached studio apartment. Full kitchen w/ brand-new gas stove, dishwasher. Washer/dryer, full bath, a/c, bedroom nook, ready-to-go entertainment hookups. Scandinavian design appeal. Walking distance to L.A. Metro. $1,400/month.”

A dream Los Angeles rental listing? At 20 percent below market, in a neighborhood where the alternative is a 70-year-old building with a coin-operated laundry?

It’s not reality yet, but it will be soon. Construction will begin this month on 20 to 30 units fitting this description through an innovative development effort that focuses on converting detached two-car garages — of which there are 250,000 in Los Angeles County — into subsidized studio apartments.

According to a recent report by the California Housing Partnership, the state needs 1.4 million more affordable rental homes to meet current needs. The housing crisis in California means that architects and builders have had to get creative, and Steven Dietz said he is up for the challenge.

By Bonnie Tsui



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