Activism and Art Address the Lack of Affordable Housing in Venice Beach


Summary: A community art exhibit in Venice Beach sheds light on the growing problem of evictions and unaffordability in the popular Los Angeles neighborhood.

Photography and Community Meetings

Concerned about the rising cost of housing in Venice Beach, Judy Branfman began photographing the houses and apartments being sold and renovated at exorbitant prices. She then organized community meetings for residents to share their experiences with eviction and homelessness.

From Photos to Art-Meets-Data Exhibit

What began as a photo project has evolved into an ambitious art-meets-data exhibit titled ‘Where Has All The (affordable) Housing Gone?’ The exhibit showcases the impact of rising housing costs and disappearing rent-controlled units in the neighborhood. It is currently on display at Venice’s Beyond Baroque gallery.

Venice Beach and the Homelessness Crisis

Venice Beach has become a focal point in the Los Angeles homelessness crisis, with camps springing up in residential areas and along the sands. The influx of tech firms and the construction of expensive modern homes have widened the wealth gap in the neighborhood.

The Struggle for Affordable Housing

Longtime residents of Venice Beach face increasing rent prices that often exceed their financial means. Data from the Angeleno Project reveals that 80% of low-income renters in Los Angeles pay over half of their income towards housing costs. The supply of affordable housing is severely behind demand.

The Impact of the Ellis Act

The exhibit highlights the role of the Ellis Act, a 1985 California law that allows landlords to evict tenants in rent-controlled buildings for redevelopment. These units are then listed at market rates. Many of the disappeared rent-controlled units in Venice Beach were sold to large corporations.

Art as a Form of Healing and Expression

The exhibit features a variety of artwork, including photography, paintings, and mixed-media figurines. The artist Sumaya Evans, who was once homeless in Venice Beach, emphasizes the healing power of art and community. She believes that participating in art projects provides a sense of self-worth.

Hope for Legislative Change

Housing activists, including Judy Branfman, are hopeful that a new initiative qualified for the 2024 ballot could bring about change. The initiative aims to expand local control by overturning a law that prohibits rent control on certain properties. It offers the possibility of increased affordability and accountability.

Preserving the Exhibit and Its Message

After the exhibit ends, efforts will be made to find a permanent home for some of the installations, potentially in a library or university. The exhibit will also have a virtual presence on an Instagram page, ensuring its message continues to reach a wider audience.

Tags: Los Angeles, affordable housing, Venice Beach, homelessness, Ellis Act, art exhibit, rent control, housing crisis, read more