LA controller finds just 228 homeless housing units built with $1.2B bond

Four years after Prop HHH passed, thousands of units still in pipeline, according to audit

City Controller Ron Galperin( Credit: Ron Galperin/Wikipedia)
City Controller Ron Galperin( Credit: Ron Galperin/Wikipedia)

Los Angeles’ $1.2 billion bond that was meant to tackle homelessness has done very little to address the growing problem.

That’s the bleak assessment of City Controller Ron Galperin, whose audit released Wednesday found that just three housing projects — 228 total units — have been completed in the four years since Proposition HHH passed with the overwhelming support of voters.

And that’s despite the fact that $1.17 billion of the total bond — or 98 percent — has been earmarked for projects. Meanwhile, the city’s homeless count now stands at 41,000 people, a count that was taken before the pandemic took hold.

Proposition HHH was once seen as instrumental to Mayor Eric Garcetti’s plan to address homelessness.

“Nearly four years have passed since voters approved Prop HHH, and the need to pivot continues to grow,” according to the controller’s report.

Specifically, Galperin disagrees with Garcetti’s focus on using Prop HHH funds for supportive housing, a catch-all term that includes providing residents with access to services from job training to mental health care. Large sections of Galperin’s 60-page report are dedicated to the costs of supportive housing, The controller calculated that it costs $531,000 to develop one unit of supportive housing.

Galperin said he would like to see the city expand efforts begun during the coronavirus to house homeless in underused hotels, and to also build more shelters.

Also on Wednesday, the City Council said it would allocate $30 million in federal funds meant to house the homeless, but would withhold nearly $70 million more. Council President Nury Martinez said the city’s Homeless Services Authority needed to be held accountable because it “has underperformed in the past.”

A message left with the mayor’s office Thursday was not immediately returned. A Garcetti spokesperson told the Los Angeles Times that the mayor’s focus would remain on permanent housing, but did not specify if that meant pushing forward on planned supportive housing projects.

About 5,500 supportive units and 1,550 non-supportive units are in the “pipeline,” with tentative completion dates ranging from next year to 2023.

The city’s own data portal details which affordable housing developers have been awarded contracts through Prop HHH. Multiple contract recipients include Skid Row Housing Trust, Affirmed Housing Group, and West Hollywood Community Housing.

While Galperin’s report does not provide those details, it questions the city’s current arrangement in which only a portion of the project money is awarded, leaving developers to come up with the rest.

Because of that setup, the report found, many projects are in “pre-development” — they are counted as in the homeless housing pipeline, but the financing has not been provided.