The continued rise in homelessness makes clear that Measure H and Prop HHH were substantial down payments on ending homelessness. But by themselves, they aren’t enough to overcome Los Angeles’s dire lack of affordable housing and the legacy of institutional racism, as seen in this LA Times article.
We’ve seen our rehousing system ramp-up to help serve our most vulnerable, and move into high gear to respond to COVID-19. Now it’s time to create an LA County where no one spends more than 30% of their income on housing. We’ll need to build more housing, prevent more homelessness, and get federal, state, county, and city funds working together to do it.
The coronavirus exposed cracks in our system. Black people make up 1/3 of COVID cases nationwide while representing only 13% of the population. In Los Angeles County, Black people die from COVID-19 at double the rate of white people. And 56% of our homeless families are Black, despite making up only 8% of our County’s population. The disease and its economic impact continue to affect our most vulnerable the hardest. Compounding the grim numbers is the fact that the pandemic has put thousands more on the edge of homelessness.
How can we fix the broken systems that push people into homelessness in the first place? Criminal justice, health care, and employment must all address racial and economic inequity. And we need to change how we create housing in L.A. County.
Housing For All; should be an unquestioned right. Instead, it will take an enormous effort to reach. Nearly one-third of LA renter households pay more than half their income on housing; we have the nation’s top percentage of cost-burdened households. While tens of thousands are homeless on any given night, the Homeless Count’s inflow estimates show that tens of thousands more fall into homelessness across the course of the year, and our lack of affordable housing keeps hundreds of thousands living on the edge of homelessness, resulting in life-shortening stress and diminished opportunities to learn and grow.
At the most local level, housing doesn’t get built. Our organization fought hard to pass Prop HHH, but only now do we see annual production approaching the thousands. Our region is 509,000 units short of what is needed to meet the current housing demand, and we won’t meet that need by going city by city 88 times. We;ll need to get the most out of both the private sector and public sector production and funding.
These three actions will get us started:
- Let’s support smart strategies that maximize affordable housing output. AB3107 (Bloom) will increase housing on commercial corridors with 20% affordable housing. Support it at the Los Angeles Business Council petition here
- Let’s establish a countywide production entity to create tens of thousands of units where they’re needed.
- put new sources of funding on the table. The protests in the street have forced us to take a hard look at the values that our city and county general fund budgets represent. It’s time to realign resources into community investments.
- Let’s pursue the three strategies above at the same time that we center racial equity in our work. United Way is committed to this; continuing to build strong coalitions advocating for social justice and change, and specifically to address the lack of affordable housing available to our Black neighbors and communities.
Let’s also take that voice from the street into our hearts,and into our communities. Too many funded, sited projects get slowed down or stopped because the loudest voices object to people they see as different or less than, NIMBYism is racism that inhibits the creation of much-needed housing. Let’s have those hard conversations with our families, friends, and neighbors. Now is the time to say yes to affordable housing in your neighborhood, and you can become an effective advocate by joining Everyone In.
This will require continued federal support,and more of it. The numbers we saw today don’t reflect the effect of the pandemic. COVID-19 support has been considerable, but we will need more than a one-time infusion of cash to face the pandemic and reverse the tide.
We have an unprecedented opportunity in front of us. It starts by housing the 15,000 most vulnerable. It rises with our voices as we fight racial inequity and injustice. It continues with preservation, protection, and production. It ends with long-term solutions, and Housing for All.