Arrivals of new immigrants and the secondary migration of other immigrants to the Los Angeles area are estimated to be as many as 180,000 each year in the 1980s. The Southern California Association of Governments found three-quarters of the immigrants were low-income minorities who are more likely to live in overcrowded enclaves and pay disproportionately high rents. Other data suggest that immigrants—many of them undocumented and Hispanic—are both victims of and contributors to the housing crisis.
Although aggravated by immigration, Los Angeles' low-cost housing ills stem from broader national, social and economic trends: gentrification and other commercial conversion of low-cost housing, stagnating federal housing aid, and diminished tax and loan incentives. Skyrocketing costs have dropped the rate of home ownership well below the national average, forcing more people to rent. Condominium conversions, costly safety regulations, rent controls and successful no-growth movements also have contributed to Los Angeles' housing crisis.
Some analysts see worse conditions ahead as continued heavy migration, combined with other housing market trends, causes increased segregation and creates squatter communities and "re-ghettoizes" the area's urban core.
While the area's housing problems require national and local responses in land use, finance, and development policies, immigration measures also must be considered. Stepped-up border and employer sanction enforcement and better coordination between immigration and urban development policies could help ease pressures on housing in Los Angeles and other immigration-impacted cities. Other options include:
rigorous screening of aliens claiming entitlement to publicly-assisted housing
incentives to reduce the heavy clustering of immigrants and refugees in major urban centers
stronger anti-housing discrimination and housing code enforcement as well as aid to newly legalized aliens in asserting their tenants' rights
Over the long term, federal immigration and refugee policies must reflect the particular needs and concerns of areas such as Los Angeles. State and local planning, development, and licensing authorities must consider the consequences on both immigration and housing of continued growth of low-wage, labor-intensive urban industries dependent on foreign labor.