Mayor Bass wants wealthy Angelenos to pay for homeless housing

LA4LA initiative urges private sector donations to fund conversion projects

Mayor Karen Bass (Getty)
Mayor Karen Bass (Getty)

Los Angeles voters were asked to back a “mansion tax” to raise money for homeless housing after passing a $1.2 billion bond measure to build the same. Now Mayor Karen Bass wants rich residents and businesses to pitch in more money.

During her State of the City address, the mayor called on business leaders, charities and wealthy residents to donate money to get homeless Angelenos off the streets, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Bass urged those with the means to help buy or lease buildings that can be converted into housing for L.A.’s 46,000 homeless residents.

“We have brought the public sector together,” Bass told a roomful of elected officials, department heads, business leaders and political appointees at City Hall. “And now we must prevail on the humanity and generosity of the private sector.”

A year ago, the city enacted the voter approved Measure ULA, a 4 percent tax on property sales for homes and commercial properties above $5 million and a 5.5 percent levy on properties above $10 million. It fell far short of a promise to generate hundreds of millions to house homeless residents.

In 2016, voters approved Proposition HHH, the $1.2 billion bond measure for homeless housing projects, which has created thousands of affordable apartments.

Now Bass is working to break a logjam that has limited the city’s ability to move more than a thousand homeless Angelenos out of hotel and motel rooms and into apartments that they can afford, according to the Times.

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Her Inside Safe program to move homeless residents out of encampments has put 2,600 people indoors, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. More than a quarter of them have returned to the streets, 42 have been jailed and 38 have died.

Enter LA4LA, the mayor’s latest program, which aims to convince wealthy Angelenos to help fund the purchase of hotels and apartment buildings that could be turned into interim and permanent housing for the homeless.

LA4LA intends to also raise money to lease entire apartment buildings or help finance the construction of housing. 

The initiative has secured a $3 million grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation in Westlake Village and a $5 million loan from the California Community Foundation in Los Angeles. Beverly Hills-based developer Stephen Cloobeck, founder of Diamond Resorts, said he gave $1 million earlier this year.

“LA4LA can be a sea change for Los Angeles, an unprecedented partnership to confront this emergency, an example of disrupting the status quo to build a new system to save lives,” Bass said.

According to a City of Los Angeles report last year, affordable housing projects built with Prop. HHH funds had construction costs of $600,000 per unit.

— Dana Bartholomew

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