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Foro de Vivienda: The UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Initiative Provides Comment on California Housing Struggles

Nicholas González, Policy Analyst at the UCLA Latino Policy & Politics Initiative (LPPI), provided remarkable insights into California’s housing crisis during our virtual COVID-19 housing forum. The research corroborated and supplemented the testimonies of the forum participants who have experienced the brunt of this housing crisis. Featured below are Gonzalez’ full remarks from the forum, which include his personal story of losing his home as a child: 

I want to start by saying I am honored to be here and I’ve been moved tonight by your stories of resilience and perseverance. As a grandson of a bracero and son of a working-class immigrant family, I resonate with your struggle that it takes to survive in trying times. My parents have been homeowners all my life, but at one point, we lost our home during the 2008 Great Recession. And as someone who does intensive research on issues like housing, your stories personify and humanize the numbers and statistics we at LPPI confront in our line of work every day. 

At LPPI, we have conducted research on Latino homelessness in different parts of California from Los Angeles to Oakland to the entire state. In Los Angeles County, we have found that Latinos makeup 35 percent of the city’s homeless population, are least likely to engage in seeking assistance through public services, and are more likely than other racial & ethnic groups to live in overcrowded households. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have also found that over 40 percent of both Latinos and African Americans in Los Angeles County live in neighborhoods where residents were the most burdened by shelter-in-place policies. Nearly 2 in 5 residents of these highly burdened neighborhoods were immigrants and many spoke limited English. 

Trends in Los Angeles are also reflected in many of rural California’s predominantly Latino communities. In California, Latinos make up 42 percent of the state’s agricultural workforce, 36 percent of the construction workforce, and 33% of the leisure and hospitality workforce. Over 1 in 5 Latinos in California work in construction or hospitality. At the same time, only 17 percent of Latinos in California have a college degree compared to 51 percent of non-Hispanic whites. In no areas are these disparities more apparent than in California’s rural communities, many of which are predominantly Latino and people of color. Latinos are relegated to occupations with minimal economic mobility where they bear the brunt of low wages combined with rising housing costs in California. 

These inequities have been exacerbated during the pandemic as Latino communities have struggled to receive COVID-19 stimulus relief. In another study by LPPI focused on Los Angeles County, we found that the neighborhoods most at risk of not receiving $1,400 stimulus checks from the CARES Act in March 2020 were lower-income with higher proportions of renters, immigrants, and people of color. 56 percent of majority-Latino neighborhoods were at risk of not receiving these stimulus checks compared to 21 percent of majority-white neighborhoods, 13 percent of Asian neighborhoods, and 8 percent of African American neighborhoods. When it came to Paycheck Protection Program loans to support small businesses, we found that Latino and African American neighborhoods were receiving less PPP dollars per resident than white and Asian neighborhoods. The recent distribution processes of COVID-19 relief have widened racial and economic inequalities and it can have major implications for communities in rural California that have large proportions of Latinos and people of color. 

Our data makes clear that we need to strengthen the social safety net to catch those who are falling further behind. We need funding for homeless services and rental assistance to keep people housed as well as access to capital to buy homes. We even need funding for worker retraining, apprenticeships, and wrap-around services to build stable pipelines into good-paying jobs. But we also need targeted investments aimed at disadvantaged zip codes and with bilingual engagement so our most vulnerable populations can access and utilize public services. To achieve these solutions, It is important that we uplift your stories alongside the data-based evidence to inform policymaking and close disparities in housing that impact California’s most vulnerable communities, especially those in rural regions that are predominantly Latino and people of color.      

Your stories are the personification of our work and the reason we need to continue to research these issues. We need to continue pushing evidence-based research and data-backed solutions that aim to close these gaps through a lens of equity. I’m happy to have shared my experience and some of our research from LPPI with you all. Thank you to the CNC Educational Fund for your continued efforts advocating for our state’s rural communities. I hope that we at LPPI can play a role in achieving a monumental goal of manifesting a California for all. 

Watch some of the focal points from the forum (hosted in Spanish) here.