Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell and City Councilman Joe Buscaino said Friday a permanent supportive housing complex in Watts to be constructed with about five dozen decommissioned shipping containers will provide shelter for two dozen formerly homeless people.
“We all know that homelessness is the issue in the city of Los Angeles and these are the types of projects that we can move quicker and cheaper to house our most vulnerable,” Buscaino said at a virtual groundbreaking for the project on the corner of Compton Avenue and 95th Street.
“This is not just a building, it’s hope,” he said. “It provides hope for 24 individuals who will no longer have to call a sidewalk their home.”
The project, which is expected to be completed in September, is funded through Proposition HHH, as well as county and state funding through California’s No Place Like Home Act of 2018, and vouchers from the L.A. County Department of Health Services.
Each unit will cost about $380,000 to construct, which is below the $531,000 median cost per unit of Proposition HHH projects, as cited in a September 2020 report prepared by the city controller.
When the proposition passed in 2016, the city anticipated that each unit of supportive housing would cost between $350,000 and $414,000. More than 1,000 planned units cost more than $600,000, and one project was more than $700,000 per unit, Controller Ron Galperin said in the report.
The complex will sit on a 6,000-square-foot lot that previously was the site of a single-family home and will have 24 studios for formerly homeless individuals and people with severe mental illness, according to Michael Bohn of Studio One Eleven, the architectural firm that planned the project. A 25th unit will be a one-bedroom apartment for the on-site manager.
“In this case, modular containers work really well with the site parameters, the project scale and the unit size, all of which have helped expedite the construction schedule and reduce overall costs,” Bohn said.
The nearly 60 decommissioned shipping containers to be used for the project are being prepared in Colorado and will be shipped to Los Angeles in April or May. Bohn said the team is designing the containers with interior and exterior finishes that will blend well with the neighborhood. The height of the building will also be the same as the home next door.
Residents will have access to a ground-floor community room with an outdoor patio that overlooks the street corner, bicycle parking, a tranquility garden, a backyard and a rooftop terrace, according to Bohn.
“To hear the thought that you as an architectural firm put into this development, because what I’ve always said is building faster and cheaper is better, but I certainly want comparable quality to those $500-700,000 units,” Mitchell said. “As a public official, I’ve always said, I don’t want to put my shoulder to the grindstone to build a unit that I wouldn’t want to live in.”
According to the Los Angeles Homelessness Services Authority, which held its “State of Homelessness” event Thursday night, the city and county in the last few years have housed more people than ever before, but cannot keep up with the number of people that are falling into homelessness everyday.
“The challenge we have to remember is that every day on average 207 people make their way back into housing either with our help or on their own, and at the same time, 227 people are pushed into homelessness everyday,” LAHSA Executive Director Heidi Marston said.
There are about 66,436 people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County and 41,290 in Los Angeles, according to LAHSA’s homelessness count last year. This year’s count was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.