Open Letter to Electeds on Homelessness
Dear Elected Official,
I recently witnessed a presentation on the 2019 Homelessness Count by the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority.
The audience and I were thankful to hear that a little more than 20,000 human beings were housed during the time between the 2018 and 2019 counts. Without Measure H, these people probably would have had to live on the streets. I am also looking forward to the thousands of housing units being built due to Proposition HHH.
Overall though, I am disappointed in the increase in the number of people living on the streets due to economic hardship. Of our neighbors counted in 2019, high rents and low wages caused 53 percent of them to be on the streets for the first time.
A report by the California Housing Partnership concluded that Los Angeles County needs 514,946 affordable units available to low income earners to keep them from being unsheltered.
In addition, I was disheartened to learn that the number of families, seniors and youth that are unhoused have all increased. I am joining all those I have heard before in saying that this is unacceptable.
Our housing system has negatively affected people close to me; I have family that live together in houses designed for half the number of actual occupants. I have friends that were forced out of their homes due to increases in rent; they rely on the kindness of others to shelter them and keep them off of the streets.
I understand that the California state budget includes $1 billion to mitigate the homeless crisis; Los Angeles County will get more than $200 million for this.
Money does indeed have a substantial role in housing and homelessness. But money from the state government alone will not solve these problems. Every community, and truly every individual, needs to consider changes to policies and actions to get people housed.
I agree with the intent of Measure H and Proposition HHH. But they are both ultimately regressive. The majority of voters and taxpayers are paying to decrease homelessness; yet the cause of homelessness is overwhelmingly due to the lack of affordable housing, and low wages.
In our current housing system, private housing owners and managers are able to set rents that just cannot be paid by certain low wage earners. A report by the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation concluded that an individual earning $13.25 per hour would have to work a 79-hour week just to live in a housing unit with one bedroom. This is also unacceptable.
I recommend that the state, county and city governments engage their constituents and implement policies to improve our housing system to decrease homelessness:
- A state of emergency should be called by the Governor
- More private affordable housing should be encouraged by continuing to streamline zoning
- Rental increases should be limited
- More public housing should be built
- Public housing should be improved with better management and maintenance
- Unjust tenant evictions should be prevented
- Residential real estate investors should pay more taxes that are used to keep everyone housed
- People who make up the top ten percent of net worth relative to the total population should pay more taxes that are used to keep everyone housed.
There are more actions that can be taken which are recommended by the Los Angeles Homeless Authority, the Everyone In Campaign and the California Housing Partnership.
I want to and I will do my part to get people housed; I know many others that want to help as well. But we need to demand more from individuals and corporations that make considerable profits from leasing housing units.
Christian Guzman, Wilmington