Opinion: $ 1 billion to help homeless people should house them

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The city of Los Angeles could spend $ 1 billion to try to reduce the number of homeless people next year. It’s a phenomenal amount of money, but of course homelessness is an extremely difficult problem. The actual figure is $ 955 million – and it includes $ 164 million unspent in the current year that is rolled into the new figure. This is what Mayor Eric Garcetti should propose in his budget for the next fiscal year which will be sent to city council and made public on Tuesday. For comparison, the amount spent on roaming when Garcetti took office in 2013 was around $ 10 million.

In addition, part of that money – $ 362 million – includes funds for permanent housing projects under the HHH proposal. It is the measure of city bonds that funds a long list of developments at different stages of funding. This money is already committed, it just needs to be spent in the next fiscal year. Nearly 1,900 units are expected to begin construction at that time, but other projects already under development and construction will also benefit from some of these funds.

What the city really needs is more permanent housing. Because, as we all know, the roughly 8,000 units that will eventually be completed with $ 1.2 billion in HHH bonds will not meet the housing need for the city’s estimated 41,000 homeless.

Homelessness prevention is key to stopping the flow of people to homelessness, and the mayor has offered to set aside $ 35 million for homelessness prevention and eviction defense. Is it sufficient? Probably not.

The city has also set aside $ 43 million for Project Roomkey, the hotel rental program that allows the city to house homeless people in hotels and motels at least temporarily. The city expects to have more than 1,400 rooms in the program through September. It’s good that the city has kept these rooms in the schedule, even though the city needs around 10 times that number. But it has been difficult to get new hotels into the program as they see tourism and travel pick up now. Money currently used to pay hoteliers and contractors is supposed to be fully reimbursed by FEMA. It just takes forever for FEMA to do it. Either way, Roomkey is a temporary program – although there is talk of expanding it beyond September.

The real question is whether any of this money can be used to build housing. There is a lot of interest in building with more innovative and cheaper materials, and this may be the way to go. There is a large sum of money in this budget from the latest federal COVID-19 relief bill: $ 100 million. Yet that’s only a fraction of the $ 1.3 billion the city gets from this measure. City officials say to check details in the new budget on Tuesday to see plans for the rest.

But we do know: HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge has said she wants to see federal money go to temporary and permanent housing for the homeless – and not to regroup the shelters.

I would love to see that too. In all likelihood, the city will get an additional $ 200-300 million from the state for the Project Homekey program. buy hotels and motels and convert them into permanent housing for the homeless.

I want to see some of the money here going to put people in permanent housing, not just thousands of tiny houses.

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