LA’s affordable housing crisis linked to recent spike in homelessness

A new study shows 36K people live on city streets; opposition to shelters has led to few being built

From left: Mark Ridley-Thomas and Mayor Eric Garcetti (Credit: Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti)
From left: Mark Ridley-Thomas and Mayor Eric Garcetti (Credit: Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti)

Amid an affordable housing crisis and a growing homeless population, Mayor Eric Garcetti last year committed to building homeless shelters across Los Angeles. But his “A Bridge Home” program was met with fierce resistance from different neighborhoods, and from business and property owners who said the shelters would be too disruptive to their communities.

Just three shelters have been built, but the number of people living on the streets continues to multiply.

The homeless population now stands at 36,000 in the city, a 16-percent rise from the previous year, according to a new survey submitted to the county of Board of Supervisors. The L.A. Times first reported on the numbers. Countywide, the homeless population is 59,000, about a 12-percent increase.

“People need to understand the link between homelessness and housing affordability,” L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said, according to the Times.

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L.A. County needs almost 517,000 more units of affordable housing to meet current demand, while renters need to earn triple the minimum wage to pay the median monthly rent, according to the California Housing Partnership.

Taxing its way out of the problem doesn’t seem to be the answer either. The $1.2 billion in bond money that the city raised to develop 7,000 units of permanent supportive housing for the homeless is draining fast, according to a recent report, with the funds only covering about half the units.

Other areas facing the homeless crisis include Orange County, which changed its counting method and reported a 43-percent jump from 2017. Ventura and San Bernardino counties also reported increases of 20 percent or more.

Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier this year proposed to double the amount the state spends on rental assistance and housing development. [LAT]Gregory Cornfield