Mar 16, 2023
LA Chips Away at Homelessness, Permanent Housing Still Elusive
(Bloomberg) -- Mayor Karen Bass said Los Angeles is set to move about 4,000 people off the streets in her first 100 days, making a small dent in a homeless crisis that billions in spending has failed to quell.
Bass, speaking to reporters from City Hall on Wednesday, said she’s teamed up with government agencies and service providers to cut through the bureaucracy that’s hobbled progress in the past. The “game changer is the coordination across city and county departments,” she said.
The city has a long way to go to stem a crisis that’s spiraled even as voters have backed raising billions of dollars to fund homelessness programs, including a $1.2 billion bond measure in 2016 and a 0.25% county sales tax in 2017.
On April 1, the city will increase the sales-transfer tax on property deals valued at $5 million or more, which was passed in a November ballot initiative to raise money for affordable housing.
The vast majority of people were housed in temporary accommodation, while only a smaller group transitioned to permanent homes, highlighting the lack of affordable housing stock in a region that has the highest rent-to-income ratio of any county in the state. In Los Angeles, the median home price was $920,000 in January, well above the US median of about $383,000, according to Redfin data.
LA’s homeless population has been surging for years, rising last year to about 42,000 unsheltered people in a city of 4 million, making it the second-biggest population in a US metro after New York City. Facing growing frustration by residents, the city council last year approved a law banning encampments within 500 feet of schools and daycares. Homeless advocates argue the move effectively criminalizes homelessness.
Some businesspeople blame rising homelessness and crime for hurting their drive to bring workers back to downtown offices. “Issue No. 1 is public safety, and we absolutely are trying to do everything we can to address that,” said Bass. “In some instances it is increased enforcement, increased presence of law enforcement.”
Bass said that authorities have cleared out the occupants of about a dozen encampments across the city without the use of police force, a tactic used by LA county’s former sheriff who sparked criticism for acting too aggressively.
Bass assumed office in December, taking over from fellow Democrat and two-term mayor Eric Garcetti.
About 3,000 of the placements can be attributed to an initiative put in motion by Garcetti’s administration, Bass said. The rest are finding shelter in motels and hotels as part of a new push being made by Bass’s team.
(Adds LA median home prices in fifth paragraph)
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