Tag Archives: Los Angeles

Understanding Housing Informality in Los Angeles

by Steven Schmidt, University of California Irvine
CUSS Newsletter, 2021 Summer, Vol 34, No 2

During a warm summer evening in Los Angeles, I interviewed Mabel on the sideline of her son’s baseball practice. A single mom from Guatemala, Mabel lives with her three kids in an apartment bedroom that she rents under the table from an older woman. Mabel sees the rented room as a stepping stone to owning a home: “I want to grow, to eventually have my own house. But for now with my situation, I have to wait a little longer to be able to do it.”[i] Later that year, I met Lisa, a middle-income white woman who rents a home about five minutes away from Mabel. Although her lease does not allow sublets, Lisa usually rents out one of her three bedrooms. I asked what she looks for in a roommate: “We don’t cook animal products, we eat organic, so a health-conscious person. We didn’t want more kids, that was just too much.” Sharing a home is relatively common in Los Angeles, where an estimated 47% of families live doubled-up, or with another adult who is not a romantic partner (Bretz, 2017). While many doubled-up renters live in multigenerational homes, Mabel and Lisa live with non-family members. How do renters find opportunities to rent spaces in other households, and how do families decide who they will allow to live with them?

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