Through UEP and UEPI, students have a variety of opportunities to help address the severe shortage of affordable housing in Los Angeles and to help community partners work to improve the housing and living conditions in their neighborhoods.
Students have a variety of ways to explore housing problems in Los Angeles, the country, and the world. Each summer, Oxy students participate in the summer research program that provides students with $3,900 stipends and subsidies for room and board on campus. A number of students have focused their research on housing and community development issues, often working with local organizations. If you are interested in the 2015 Summer Affordable Housing internship, please visit the “Opportunities" page for more information.
Student Research Projects
Wyvernwood Development and ELACC: UEP and UEPI has formed a partnership with the East Los Angeles Community Corporation (ELACC) to help address problems of gentrification in the Boyle Heights neighborhood, a primarily Latino immigrant community a few miles from the Occidental campus. One aspect of this partnership is ongoing efforts to focus attention on Wyvernwood Garden Apartments, a housing complex in the area that was built in 1939 and contains about 1200 apartment units with approximately 6,000 residents. Wyvernwood was the first garden-style apartment complex in Los Angeles. The model of “garden-style" apartments was designed to create healthy, walkable, and livable spaces that promoted community for middle-income workers in Los Angeles by surrounding each building with green spaces and walking paths to connect them.
A Florida developer purchased Wyvernwood complex and has proposed a plan to the city government to tear it down and replace it with much a much denser development at higher rents. ELACC has been working with the residents of the development and of the surrounding community to address the potential for large-scale displacement and gentrification. In recent years, Occidental students have worked with ELACC and Wyvernwood residents. In UEP 304, the research methods course, students conducted a survey of Wyvernwood residents. In UEP 302, students did a legal and financial analysis of the proposed redevelopment plan. As part of the Summer Affordable Housing internship, an Oxy student examined the political environment surrounding this development and the potential for displacement as a result of the proposed redevelopment project and looked at alternative scenarios. UEP and UEPI will continue to work with ELACC and to provide students with opportunities to learn about housing and community development issues through engagement with Wyvernwood.
The Mortgage Crisis and the Foreclosure Epidemic: This topic has been an ongoing issue for research and action. Oxy faculty and students have worked with a number of community based organizations to address the growing problem of “underwater" mortgages, foreclosures, bank redlining, and related problems. Students have worked with groups that provide homeowners with counseling and that seek to promote public policies to address the crisis. In 2013 and 2014, Professor Dreier led a national research team of scholars that investigated the scale and geography of “underwater" mortgages in the United States. The research team’s final report, Underwater America: How the So-Called Housing Recovery is Bypassing Many Communities was released in May under the auspices of the Haas Institute at UC-Berkeley. Underwater America identifies the nation’s most troubled regions, cities, and neighborhoods with the highest proportion of homeowners with negative equity or “underwater mortgages" and reveals that the hardest-hit are communities of color. The report received widespread media attention throughout the country. Professor Dreier authored an op-ed column in the New York Times summarizing the report. He is continuing to work with the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, the Home Defenders League, and other organizations to mobilize public opinion and shape public policy on this issue.
For more information about the Affordable Housing program, please contact Peter Dreier.