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Study Determines that Apartments in Los Angeles Take Nearly Four Years to Build

A photo illustration of Mayor of Los Angeles Karen Bass (Getty)

According to a recent study conducted by the Los Angeles Business Council Institute (LABCI), the average finished multifamily project in the City of Los Angeles takes approximately 3.9 years from its initial application to completion. This study confirmed the long-standing complaints from developers about the slow approval process in the city.

The authors of the study emphasized the urgent need for more housing in Los Angeles and highlighted that the housing approval and development process is cumbersome. “The City of Los Angeles is in dire need of more housing,” the study’s authors wrote. “Yet, the city’s housing approval and development process is long and complex, leading to added costs and a high degree of uncertainty among developers. Delays can occur at every step of the process.”

The research was conducted by Edward Kung, an economics professor at California State University Northridge, and Stuart Gabriel, director of UCLA's Ziman Center for Real Estate. They analyzed public data sets and examined approval times for all multifamily housing projects, including all-affordable projects, permitted by the City of Los Angeles between 2010 and 2022.

Out of nearly 2,700 projects permitted during that period, the study found that only 1,712 projects, or just under two-thirds, had been completed. This means that almost 49,000 units that could have been added to the city's housing stock remain unfinished.

The slow pace of permitting revealed in the study indicates that Los Angeles is falling significantly short of its housing goals. Over the 12-year period analyzed, approximately 120,000 homes were permitted, which is less than one-third of the number of units determined by the State of California as necessary for the city to plan for between 2021 and 2029.

The LABCI report further analyzed the lag time of projects, distinguishing between approval time and construction time. However, this analysis focused only on projects that have already been completed.

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