Photo via Pixabay
Photo via Pixabay

The Los Angeles City Council Tuesday took a step toward placing a $1.2 billion bond measure on the November ballot to address the city’s homelessness problem, and will also vote later this week on an alternate parcel tax initiative.

The council voted 14-0 to approve a resolution stating that it is necessary for the city to propose issuing $1.2 billion in bonds, part of a two- step process. The council is expected to take another vote Wednesday on the bond measure language and whether to place it on the ballot.

The council is also expected Wednesday to take up a parcel tax initiative to serve as an alternative measure to put before voters.

The council has yet to decide which revenue-raising strategy to move forward with — the $1.2 billion bond to pay for housing for the homeless over a decade, or a 10-year parcel tax to raise $90 million per year until 2027. The council could vote to place both the bond and tax measures on the ballot, then decide by Aug. 12 which one to withdraw.

The parcel tax would be based on the square footage of a property’s improvements, while the bond measure would be paid back through property taxes based on assessed value.

City officials estimate that under a $1.2 billion bond measure, property owners would generally need to pay between $4.50 and $17.50 per year for every $100,000 of assessed value, for as many as 28 years.

If approved, the bond amount would be the biggest voters have ever authorized the city to issue. The largest bond amount approved thus far was $600 million to pay for citywide security improvements. Voters have also approved city bond measures to build public facilities for the library, police, fire department, animal shelters and the zoo, and to make seismic upgrades.

City leaders last year vowed to tackle homelessness and spend about $100 million toward the effort. They estimate it will cost about $1.85 billion over a decade to adequately house and provide services to homeless people and families in Los Angeles. A recent count put the city’s homeless population at about 27,000 people.

Councilman Mike Bonin said there is a “hunger for solutions” to end homelessness, that this is “our only opportunity,” and the city should “strike now, while that window of public support is open.”

He also said the city is moving forward despite a countywide proposal to put a “millionaires” tax on the ballot that would have high-income earners help pay for homelessness housing and services.

Council President Herb Wesson also pointed to the need for the city to move forward, despite the county proposal.

“We all agree the best approach should be a regional approach, but it does not look like that regional approach is going to occur,” he said.

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said that with the bond measure, the individual bonds would only be issued when “projects surface.”

“We’re trying to avoid a situation where we’re borrowing more than what we need,” he said.

The money from either the parcel tax or the bond measure — to be paid back through higher property taxes — would be spent on permanent supportive housing, which are residences for the formerly homeless that include health and counseling services within a building. The funds would also be earmarked for facilities serving the homeless, such as storage, shelters and showers.

Much of the debate in recent days has been about whether a portion of the funds should also go toward affordable housing or programs, as opposed to putting all of the funds into housing for those who are homeless. Also being discussed was whether funding should go toward helping low-income people become first-time home buyers, and where to draw the household income line for deciding who the majority of the funds should go to.

The recommendations that are going before the City Council no longer include earmarks for first-time home buyer programs, and would provide the overwhelming majority of the funding to individuals and families who are extremely low-income, with the remaining going to low-income households that earn between 51-80 percent of the Average Median Income.

City leaders are hoping to submit the proposed measure or measures by Friday so they can be placed on the November ballot.

At least two City Council members — Jose Huizar and Marqueece Harris- Dawson — are pushing for the bond proposal, with the two pointing to recent polling indicating the public would be more receptive to it over a parcel tax.

—City News Service

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