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Helen Leung and Elizabeth Timme on How to Build More Backyard Homes and Help Low Income Tenants

December 2, 2019

Los Angeles is currently in an affordable-housing crisis. As of June 2019, 58,936 homeless people were living in L.A. County. And with a growing number of employed individuals experiencing homelessness, the need for affordable housing is greater than ever. California made it easier for homeowners to build ADUs in 2017. But the question is, how do you get people to build them? And How do you get Section 8 voucher recipients in them?

In this webinar, Helen Leung and Elizabeth Timme, co-executive directors of LA-Más, speak on how backyard homes, sometimes called accessory dwelling units (ADUs), could help answer these questions. “How to Build More Backyard Homes and Help Low-Income Tenants” will be the first of our 2019 Solutions of the Year webinar series.

With a spike in applications requesting permits to build these backyard houses, LA-Más saw a potential solution to the affordable housing crisis that’s plaguing Los Angeles — that’s when they came up with the Backyard Home Project. The program provides homeowners with financing and construction resources when they commit to housing Section 8 tenants. This approach is a faster and relatively inexpensive option compared to larger housing developments.

“Growing up in Frogtown, I’ve seen long-time neighbors leave because of a lack of affordable options,” says Leung. “I believe that the opportunities that were given to my parents to buy a home should be a right for working-class families vulnerable to displacement today.”

Since Backyard Home Project’s inception, nearly 200 homeowners have signed up for the initiative. As of December 2019, there are about 20 homeowners who are in either the “vetting” or construction phases.

“I know firsthand that structural stability is a privilege for some and a dream for many,” says Timme. “Having faced challenges that many face in our city, my mission has been to help others experiencing life instability and build resiliency and support for vulnerable communities.” 

Elizabeth Timme and Helen Leung are co-executive directors of LA-Más. A third-generation architect, Timme — who is also a Next City Vanguard — believes designers can help create a unified vision, identify creative alternatives and work in partnership with communities on public projects and civic planning.

Raised in Frogtown by working-class immigrant parents, Leung is passionate about using her policy and planning experience to minimize displacement pressures that come with gentrification.

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