The LA County Board of Supervisors took a bold step in addressing our crushing housing crisis last week: They approved a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl directing county staff to identify a permanent local source of county funding to build new apartments with affordable rents and to fund other ways of helping homeless and precariously housed residents. The goal is to immediately dedicate $20 million in new county funding, and increase the amount to $100 million each year within five years. More than 120 organizations — including business, health, religious, environmental, services, community and housing organizations — sent in 1,700 letters and postcards in support of this motion. (Photo: LA Times.)
One of the reasons the county is stepping up is that it foots most of the bills for the health care and jail time associated with homelessness, and we have learned that it is less expensive to house people than to leave them on the street. In addition, LA County is taking in more in property taxes since the elimination of local redevelopment agencies three years ago — this is sometimes called “boomerang money.” But with the demise of redevelopment and loss of state housing bonds, funding for affordable housing in LA County has been slashed by over $460 million/year since 2008, according to the California Housing Partnership Corporation.
The combination of rising rents and falling incomes is wreaking havoc on low-income people. In January, more than 15,000 families getting CalWORKs and 53,000 individuals getting General Relief were homeless — that’s more homeless people in the county than the entire population of Inglewood, or Burbank, or Santa Monica. LA County has the highest poverty rate in California at 26%, according to the Public Policy Institute of California, and incomes and rents are so out of whack that we have a shortage of more than half a million affordable rentals--just in LA County. And 3 out of 4 Metro riders have incomes of less than $25,000/year.
We applaud the LA County Board of Supervisors for demonstrating leadership in tackling the housing crisis. We hope it also inspires city leaders across the county to step up.