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Homeless solutions projected to cost $1.87 billion

LOS ANGELES — Mayor Eric Garcetti said he believes city leaders will be able to find $100 million in next year’s budget to help reduce homelessness, and he is open to asking voters to increase taxes to come up with part of the $1.8 billion needed over the next decade to address the issue.

City officials released a report Jan. 7 that estimated it could cost $1.87 billion to provide housing and services over 10 years to address the growing problem of homelessness in Los Angeles. One of the ideas was for city leaders to ask voters to raise taxes.

The analysis was prepared by City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana and Chief Legislative Analyst Sharon Tso, at the request of the City Council.

The report notes that the city has long fallen short on building affordable housing and providing shelter for the homeless, resulting in an expensive path to resolving the problem.

In addition to exploring a proposed tax hike measure, city leaders also are considering an array of other options, Garcetti said during a news conference Jan. 9 on an unrelated matter.

“There’s nothing that’s off the table, whether it’s possibly going to voters, whether it’s looking at the growth of our budgets or shifting some priorities from something that we fund today that, while important, may not have the same urgency as homelessness,” he said.

“Going to the voters is something that I think about, but it’s not the first place I usually go,” Garcetti said. “If we go to voters, I don’t want it to necessarily be on the backs of those who can least afford to pay something. Sometimes parcel taxes are very tough for those who are hanging onto their homes.”

He said he has proposed imposing “linkage fees” that would be paid by developers to fund affordable housing. City officials are also exploring real estate document transfer fees, unspent funds from past development projects, community development block grant funding and general fund money, he said.

“Whenever we see a few more dollars, pennies out there, we are going to put it into homelessness,” he said.

The ballot measure idea has already attracted interest from some council members. Councilmen Jose Huizar and Marqueece Harris-Dawson, co-chairs of the Homelessness and Poverty Committee, were expected to introduce a motion Jan. 12 to “outline a plan for long-term funding” through a ballot measure as early as November.

“The causes of homelessness are as nuanced, complicated and varied as the individuals experiencing it,” Huizar told City News Service Jan. 9. “When we formed this committee … our goal from the start was to begin to build the necessary infrastructure and institutional knowledge that we as a city have never had, while creating a comprehensive plan to begin to address homelessness in all its facets.”

He added: “The motion I will introduce Tuesday … will formally ask city staff to begin work on letting us know what a voter-approved proposal would look like. There’s little doubt in my mind that homelessness is the moral dilemma of our time. To address it we need to look at any and all options.”

Garcetti defended the city’s past efforts in addressing homelessness, with the city report saying that not enough had been done.

Some of the “successful models” now being proposed had their roots in earlier, smaller efforts, the mayor said, but there were setbacks in trying to get more funding to expand such programs and to make housing more affordable.

“I think there’s been tremendous policy and groundwork done over the last few years,” he said. “Do I wish there had been more resources? Of course.”

Garcetti said that while serving as a councilman, he initiated a program, along with the county, to better understand the conditions of those who are living on the streets to find out who had the most urgent needs.

“This was one of the predecessors of what is now the CES — the coordinated entry system — which ranks people who are closest to death, the most vulnerable and gets resources to them first to make sure we don’t see people lost on the streets of L.A.,” he said.

Opportunities to raise money to house the homeless and to build more affordable housing have been stymied in the past, he said.

Garcetti said he backed Proposition H, a ballot measure in 2006 to issue $1 billion in housing bonds to provide affordable housing to the homeless and those who are at risk of becoming homeless, but while it came close, it failed to get the needed two-thirds approval from voters.

The city also built up a $100 million housing trust fund, only to see “community redevelopment funds get zeroed out by the state and federal funds get cut in half during the recession,” he said.

 

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