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Two New Papers Explore the Potential of Commercial to Residential Conversions

Commercial land is ubiquitous throughout California, but can repurposing these areas for housing make a meaningful dent towards the state’s housing production needs? Two new papers from the Terner Center explore the potential for commercial land to be used for new homes.

Strip Malls to Homes: An Analysis of Commercial to Residential Conversions in California finds that over the five-year period of 2014 to 2019 about 38,000 homes were built on commercially zoned land across the state’s four major metro areas—Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Sacramento, and San Diego—and only slightly more housing can be expected to be built over the next five years, absent policy changes. Notably, not all California regions are equally positioned to see commercial lands play a significant contributing role to new housing supply going forward. Locally variable land use policies drive much of the difference between regions; for example, the Los Angeles region substantially surpasses the rest of the state in terms of its rate of conversion. 

Adaptive Reuse Challenges and Opportunities in California looks at the likelihood of adaptive reuse of commercial buildings for residential purposes. It identifies specific architectural, financial, and policy factors that are mostly likely to be predictive of adaptive reuse being a viable strategy for sites with existing commercial buildings. 

Find these and more resources on commercial zoning reform on a new landing page here.

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