Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The storage as a bedroom is a social problem

Garage converted into a living unit plus two storages (at least with windows). Personal archives
House and storage in Southgate. Personal archives

There is a common trick in California to sub rent the property: the installation of a storage. To add a storage in a house is not a problem, while it is located on a concrete slab complying the set backs. A storage can be bought at Home Depot, Sears, etc. and there is specialized people to ensamble the parts. In my country, it is very difficult to find such storages in the city, as the lots are too narrow, so my first impression was to think that the American storage was too much. But this is not, considering Americans use not only storages to keep furniture, old things, garden tools, etc, but they also use the garages as full storages.

The Latino mind goes further. Of course, this is not for all, and it is not a rule. But it happens frequently. The storage is part of "making the living", as there is no special regulation about it. In the picture's case, the blue storage has been painted like the house, it was built to match the house. The property was vacant by the time I took the picture, but there was no doubt for me, somebody has been renting it. The storages above, have a window added. And the garage had been clearly converted into a "second unit".

Planners are always worried about the lot coverage, to avoid urban sprawl, but forgot to include the storage in the counting, as it is an accessory structure. Unless the storage is too big, it will be considered just a place to keep the tools. A problem like this cannot be considered under the light of the lot coverage. The social problem, the lack of dwellings, have to be resolved first.

In present times, Los Angeles is becoming a city of rich and poor, with those of middle class that go away every time but toward the suburbs. The city began the decade with but of 372.000 units of overcrowded dwellings, of which 102.000 were severely overcrowded. And the situation continues worsening, from 1990 to 2000 the city population incremented in 300000 people and the numbers of housings has grown, for the same lapse of time, in 30.600. (Data from the Report of the Housing Crisis Task Forced, year 2000).
“The small number of units now being built are either luxury units for high income households or government-subsidized units for low income households. While higher income families build ever larger houses in the city’s most expensive areas, the solution for the middle class in search of single family homes has been to move out to suburbs in north and East Los Angeles County and to San Bernardino and Riverside Counties. The solution for the poor has been to double and triple up in existing housing and to add new, sometimes substandard housing through unpermitted accessory units and converted garages in many of the City’s neighborhoods. Such units can even be found in aflluent areas”.
“In the absence of professional developers who assemble land and finance to construct new housing, individual property owners throughout the City are supplementing their incomes and subsidizing their own home ownership by creating illegal rental units. At a time when new construction cannot meet the housing needs of a growing population, residents are clearly finding ways to accommodate growth.”
This paragraph belongs to Report of the Housing Crisis Task Force, 2000, and subrepticially mentions that inhabitants, as a dynamic system, have found a way to accommodate.

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