California’s housing crisis has taken decades to develop, and it will take years to fully solve. In the short term we must pursue policies that stop the cycle of debt and criminalization. California can bring immediate relief to our neighbors who are suffering, we are only lacking political will.
We are making progress, but it’s not enough.
Despite gains in transitioning people from living on the street to housing, we are seeing more Angelenos ending up homeless year over year. In 2018, the city of LA was able to house 21,000 people, but saw a net increase of 16% in homelessness.
In 2016 Measure H and Measure HHH each secured more than a super majority to create new funding for permanent supportive housing. $1 billion over 10 years on the county level and $1 billion over 10 years on the city level. It was estimated that the city of LA would build 10,000 permanent supportive housing units in that span of time.
Mayor Garcetti tried to buttress these proposals with his A Bridge Home plan, which requires each City Council district build one temporary shelter to provide emergency relief while services and permanent arrangements were made.
It’s incredibly bizarre to me that right after the homeless count comes out, the council would take up a motion like this which seems dead set at kicking the poorest when they’re down. The people that are harmed by these [towing] practices are the most vulnerable who are already in situations where they run the risk of falling into homelessness. – Ace Katano, LA County Public Defender
So far, all of these plans have failed to live up to their promise.
Instead of 10,000 units of housing, LA will (probably) only build 6,000. And even that prediction may be too rosy. As time passes, the cost per unit increases and the number of units drops. It took nearly 1,000 days for the city to open 1 permanent supportive housing facility.
Bridge shelters are also stalled across the city. Despite the supposed ease to open and low costs to maintain these shelters, only 3 have opened.
Moreover, each bridge shelter brings increased policing. Mayor Garcetti pledged $30 million to fund the shelters, but he also pledged $29 million to police the areas around them. For anyone unable to secure a bed, the city is not promising help: it is promising sweeps, theft of personal property, and jail cells.
We simply are not building shelters and permanent housing as fast enough. There are too many roadblocks to creating new capacity, and it is killing our neighbors. Last year 918 people died living on the streets of LA.
The lack of shelter options has left many Angelenos with only one option: living in their vehicles. Be it their car or RV, many have opted for the only shelter available.
It is time for California to embrace ideas that will bring immediate relief to our neighbors.
Our housing and eviction crisis is rooted in the increasing cost of rent and declining wages. Since 2000, the median rent in Los Angeles rose 32% and the median wage dropped 3%. We tie rent increases to inflation, but wages don’t have a guaranteed increase. As full time employment is harder to come by and gig work dominates new hires, the average worker does not have the purchasing power to afford even a modest apartment.
This has brought us to a point where an estimated 600,000 people in LA County are paying 90% of their income in rent alone. Rent that doesn’t earn them a tax deduction. Rent that doesn’t build equity. Rent that competes with food and healthcare costs.
We need long term solutions like rent control and public housing to truly address this crisis, but in the meantime there are short term policies that can bring relief.
AB 516 has proven to be a lightning rod for opposition from homeowners and LA politicians. The bill would make it harder for cities to tow and impound vehicles that are left parked for more than 72 hours, that have accumulated parking tickets, or that have expired registration. As the housing and eviction crisis has escalated, so has the number of people relying on their vehicle for shelter.
In LA, 16,500 people are estimated to be living in their cars. This includes working families and people who were economically stable just a short while ago. Pushed out of their homes by increased rents and stagnant wages, many people have only their car left. Squeezed by the high costs of being unhoused, people cannot afford to pay every parking ticket or renew their registration on time.
The city’s opposition to AB 516 puts them in danger by criminalizing them, seizing their assets, and using lien sales to recoup the cost of impound. Not only will the city take your car, they will sell it and pocket the proceeds!
AB 516 would provide a measure of protection for people left in this situation. It’s not perfect. Too many of our neighborhoods lack adequate parking, but this is because LA has more cars than households, not because our neighbors living in their cars are a unique burden.
Safe Parking LA has been offering people living in the vehicles safe accommodations, but the need is greater than the demand. Currently, only about 300 spaces are available. There are plans to expand, but those would only add another 300 spaces. Without aggressive funding from the state the need will not be met.
The state legislature declined to move forward on bills that would protect tenants, cap rents, and reform Costa-Hawkins. Instead of building a foundation of equity, we will see at least two more years of increasing rents, increasing evictions, and increasing homelessness. We can’t turn out backs on short term solutions that can alleviate suffering. We have to act now.
AB 516 and Safe Parking are good ideas that can be implemented quickly. Either will take some of the pressure off our unhoused neighbors. But, like all of these solutions, they are coming far too late. Too many people have died, too many people are suffering, too many people have lost their homes because of political inaction.
It’s time to be bold and demand real action. Every day that we delay means that 3 more Angelenos will die.