L.A.’s $1.2 Billion Bond May Not Be Enough to Tackle Homelessness

According to a new audit released, ”the soaring cost of living and lack of affordable housing have been further compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

A city audit released Wednesday found that Los Angeles’ now six-year-old $1.2 billion bond measure is unlikely to be able to tackle the city’s homelessness crisis.

Only half of Proposition HHH-funded projects are expected to be ready by 2023 and costs continue to rise significantly, addressing the issue continues to stray further from its intended goal. As it stands, the audit says that about 14 percent of the planned units will cost more than $700,000.

“Despite steep increases in public spending year over year to address homelessness in Los Angeles, more people are unhoused today than when Prop. HHH passed in 2016,” the audit says. “The soaring cost of living and lack of affordable housing have been further compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving tens of thousands of people unhoused or at-risk throughout the region.”

The audit continued by saying that “the problem is not unique to L.A.” but, “according to The 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress produced by HUD, more than half of all unsheltered people in the country reside in California, and Los Angeles was ranked as the metro area with the second largest homeless population.”

Five years later, only 18 of the 125 HHH-funded project units are completed, providing 1,142 units—831 of which are deemed as supportive. The average HHH subsidy for these projects comes in at approximately $134,000 per unit.

65 units are still under construction and will provide 4,205 housing units when complete. These will cost an average of $596,000 per unit.

In 2021, the city has so far dispersed $750 million to developers for the furthering of the projects. As just under 1,200 housing units have been completed, it was addressed as “wholly inadequate in the context of the ongoing homelessness emergency.”

In light of the recent findings, the audit recommends four changes, two of which the city has already begun implementing—increased speed for review processes and the acquiring and conversion of existing buildings for housing.

The audit suggests the use of HHH funds to build interim housing and facilities, as well as the reevaluation of expensive or stalled projects before finalizing HHH loans.

In response, Ann Sewill, general manager of the city’s Housing Department, contended that Proposition HHH was generally on track to meet the goals it set, but that the best course of action was to “complete the program and deliver more units … to fulfill the commitment that the city made as part of the HHH promise.”

“Failing to acknowledge the market context makes it seem that it is impossible to identify a feasible plan to produce the housing we need,” Sewill added.

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