Dozens of housing developments approved. Pro-housing legislation passed. A broader conversation on the importance of more housing across California. We’ve undoubtedly achieved great things. Abundant Housing LA is LA’s loudest pro-housing voice. But the housing crisis is a stubborn, multi-faceted, complex thing. It requires dedication and strategy to defeat. That’s why we’ve come to realize that self-reflection is always valuable in the pursuit of that greater good. It’s in the ideals of effective altruism that we find valuable guidance.
As much as Abundant Housing LA might tally significant wins, the fight is far from over. The immensity of our challenges must be met with an immense determination. And we’re looking far beyond piecemeal accomplishments. Los Angeles—and indeed all of California—need solutions far upstream; individual developments are necessary and worthwhile efforts, but the housing crisis must be solved holistically and decisively.
What does “holistically” even mean within the context of the housing crisis? Well to fight for housing justice is to at once fight for racial justice, economic justice, and climate justice. The challenges faced by California’s most vulnerable are all deeply linked. Segregation continues to plague our cities, even in 2020. Californians of color are disproportionately poorer, more likely to live in overcrowded homes, and exposed to more air pollutants. And for all Californians, the impact of our sprawl on the environment is bad news. Further horizontal expansion erodes natural habitats, increases fire risk, increases the number of cars making ever-longer commutes, thus pumping more and more toxic air into the lungs of you and your family.
The environment matters. Black lives matter. Ending poverty matters. And if those of us dedicating our time to ending the housing crisis hope to be truly successful, we have to allocate our resources in ways that reflect those assertions.
So what does that even look like?
One way is through collaboration. Abundant Housing LA has already joined HealthyLA, a coalition of advocates and advocacy organizations promoting solutions to issues that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused or worsened. Among them are racial inequity and the vulnerability of renters. We have also made moves to diversify our membership geographically. Currently a disproportionate number of our members reside in the Westside, but our mission is to make all of Los Angeles more livable and affordable. The voices and determination of Angelenos from every area and socioeconomic background must also be part of our movement.
Moving forward, we need to be asking ourselves as many questions as possible. What aspects of the housing crisis are being overlooked? How do we better connect with the communities we are advocating for? Effective altruism is a continuous process and we are devoted to continue asking and addressing these questions to better serve our communities.
Ultimately, the work of many is more effective than the work of few. We’ve already begun that deep and productive collaboration with other organizations, but are committed to expansion. By mobilizing partners—both individuals and other organizations—to join us in the fight against the housing crisis, we can build that LA much sooner. We have many members who own their own homes, and we want to mobilize them to join us in allowing others to have the benefits of having a home like they do.
Part of the self-reflection that effective altruism invites us to undertake is not only about the efficacy of our actions, but also about the very value of our mission. At the heart of effective altruism is the desire to give, to make room for the otherized and the vulnerable and ensure the protection of their human dignity. Unfortunately, the powerful anti-housing forces working against us represent the opposite of this. Those wanting to prevent others from having homes in their neighborhoods is in the ultimate interest of the self, and not of the greater good.
Abundant Housing LA and our pro-housing allies across California and the country are rooted in the belief that the realization of sustainable, affordable, and inclusive cities depends equally on foresight and the maximum use of resources. We’re well on our way, and the fight is ours to lose.