Living in a big city in the United States isn’t cheap. In Los Angeles, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $2,308, according to Rent Jungle. In 2018, the national average in America’s 100 largest cities for a one-bedroom unit costs $1,362. Affordable housing has become scarce in highly-populated urban areas and one woman is fighting to change that.
Los Angeles resident and affordable-housing advocate Lara Morrison defies the national average by living in the Los Angeles Eco-Village neighborhood. Morrison has lived in the Eco-Village for more than 20 years and currently pays $570 per month for her almost 500 square-foot apartment. Rent includes utilities and access to high-speed internet.
As a lifelong community activist, Morrison is one of the approximately 40 residents in the Eco-Village neighborhood, which lies within a two-block radius of Wilshire Center/Koreatown. She has a master’s in Bioethics from the Medical College of Wisconsin and a bachelor’s in Environmental Science from the University of Washington.
Morrison is member of the Eco-Village advisory board and is running for committee assembly member in District 53. She advocates for environmental justice, housing for all and believes in the power of intentional community living spaces.
According to Lois Arkin, co-founder of the Los Angeles Eco-Village, the neighborhood is part of an international movement to build sustainable living communities in urban areas. These global villages demonstrate a community-minded lifestyle that achieves a lower environmental impact through creating a healthy neighborhood ecologically, socially and economically.
Co-op residents pay their rent to the Beverly Vermont Community Land Trust (BVCLT), which is a nonprofit 501.c.3 organization based in the L.A. Eco-Village. According to their website, BVCLT was founded in 2007 and helps to create permanently affordable housing for low- to moderate-income households dedicated to sustainable living patterns.
“A lot of affordable housing that’s done in Los Angeles can only remain affordable for short periods of time—15 years, 20, 30 or 40 years—and then it can revert to the speculative housing market,” said Arkin.
The original founders wanted the neighborhood to remain affordable for its residents. They began in 1993 with the intention of re-inventing how people live in major cities. The intentionally affordable neighborhood is strategically located near public transportation, public schools and grocery stores so residents can go car-free if they choose.
Morrison is one of the original Eco-Village residents and helps to maintain the property including the community garden located across the street. Both Morrison and Arkin know the importance of getting to know your neighbors.
“Most Eco Villages and intentional communities do not succeed. One of the major reasons that they don’t is because they didn’t get to know their neighbors and include them in the process,” said Arkin.
“Having lived here, on this block, for 13 years before we started the Eco-Village, that really wasn’t a problem for us,” said Arkin.