Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell called on the state Wednesday to direct $1.2 billion toward the city’s battle against homelessness, matching the amount of a voter-approved municipal bond measure aimed at attacking the problem.
“We need to augment our programs and go beyond and push for 20,000 (supportive housing) units or more,” O’Farrell said, adding that the city’s current goal of 10,000 units would not be enough to house Los Angeles’ homeless population.
“We need to double or triple that amount if we’re really serious about solving the homelessness crisis,” the councilman said in front of City Hall. “We are working locally to reduce the cost of Proposition HHH housing as well. We want to make more units more quickly without sacrificing the quality of those units.”
Measure HHH was approved by Los Angeles voters in 2016, authorizing $1.2 billion in bonds to fund supportive and affordable housing, along with other measures to address homelessness.
O’Farrell, who chairs the council’s Homelessness and Poverty Committee, said Los Angeles is the only city in the state that has taxed itself to build supportive housing. He said 1,400 units will be open by the end of the year and more supportive housing units will be approved for construction soon.
Figures from the most recent Southland homeless count found that more than 36,000 people are homeless in the city of Los Angeles, an increase of 16 percent since last year. Countywide, the homeless population jumped by 12 percent.
“These numbers … are depressing, outrageous, mind-numbing,” O’Farrell said. “What we need is a paradigm shift in our thinking and in our determination across all levels of government. We must create a sustainable and robust system for addressing this crisis. It is the challenge of our day.”
The councilman said the state needs to make changes in the Ellis Act, which allows owners to opt out of the rental market, and the Costa Hawkins Act, which restricts the implementation of rent control ordinances in certain circumstances.
He also said the federal government needs to participate in finding solutions to the problem. O’Farrell said federal funding for homeless issues decreased from $55 million a year in 2008 to $30 million in 2012, when the crisis was expanding. Recently implemented federal tax policy may also be contributing to the city’s increasing population, and officials are analyzing the effects of those policies, the councilman said.
O’Farrell introduced several motions during Wednesday’s council meeting, including a request to hold a homeless and poverty summit, and another calling on the city to coordinate Housing Department resources to find vacant units and house people faster.
Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority officials said during the council meeting that based on the 2019 numbers, the county is housing people at a slower rate than people are falling into homelessness.
“The heart of homelessness is the inflow of people,” said Phil Ansell, director of the Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative. “We have doubled the number of people moving into permanent housing, while at the same time we had a 12 percent increase. On average, 133 families escaped homelessness each day, but 150 people became homeless per day.”
Ansell said if the city and county can move people into permanent housing faster, they could rapidly accelerate the process of moving people into interim housing. But he noted that interim housing should not be viewed as the final solution to solving homelessness.
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