In 2016, voters approved Proposition HHH, a bond measure that raised $1.2 billion to help finance the construction of 10,000 units of affordable housing over 10 years, mostly supportive housing for chronically homeless individuals. Those units however, have been slow to materialize, and some have started to take notice. 

Last week, Los Angeles Downtown News reported on a new audit of the program conducted by Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin’s office raised legitimate concerns about HHH, taking aim at the slow pace that new units are being constructed, and a rising per unit construction cost.

Galperin is right to do so.

The bond is an important tool in combating homelessness, but as the City Controller’s report indicates.

Not a single unit from a HHH funded development has opened — a 62-unit project is expected to open late next month. Since the bond was passed, homelessness has increased a headache-inducing 30% in the city.

At the same time, the estimated cost to build units has increased dramatically, with city officials now estimating cost at a whopping $531,000 per unit — in 2016, the city estimated the per unit cost at $350,000 to $414,000.

In Downtown, the problem is especially difficult. Residents have voiced consternation over the prevalence of people setting up tents that block sidewalks, while over a billion dollars of housing funds have yet to materialize into units to help house the vulnerable population. In total, just 19 of the 114 approved HHH projects are in construction (five are in Downtown).

Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department have responded to Galperin’s report, pointing out that units are not funded entirely by HHH funds and that projects take time to build. That’s a fair response in the name of clarity, but Galperin’s point stands.

Obviously construction and planning takes time, and complications can and do arise, be it unexpected rises in construction costs due to the wider economy or neighborhood pushback or permitting issues.

But Galperin is right that the leaders need to find ways to clear up red tape, build more efficiently, and try alternative housing solutions. His suggestion to potentially reshuffle funds for services and shelters is eyebrow raising, as all of the $1.2 billion of HHH funds have already been allocated to future projects. As much as the city needs to construct more temporary shelters, the city also needs an influx of affordable and permanent home for people transitioning out of homelessness.

Homelessness was a crisis in 2016 and it remains a crisis today. The city must explore all options, but voters and officials have committed a tremendous amount of public funds and the product should be realized in as cost-effective and efficient way possible.