Fix LA’s homeless housing crisis
New luxury condos in Downtown Los Angeles make luxe Downtown living viable again but push many unhoused individuals further from the services they need to survive. The crisis on the streets of Downtown Los Angeles has intensified during the pandemic, with those who already had no place to go scrambling for a safe place to live while many businesses shutter and the Skid Row area turns itself over to gentrification.
What was already a significant problem for the city is growing rapidly as calls from locals to stop violent and often unnecessary police sweeps of homeless camps grow into cries to defund the police and start funding more services for the unhoused. Mayor Garcetti’s budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year allotted 7.4 cents for every budget dollar spent on community policing and only 3.7 cents of every dollar on community services, some of which address homelessness.
Most of the services, like nonprofits and government agencies aimed at addressing homelessness, are within a few blocks of the Skid Row area. As new luxury condos take over the neighborhood, the unhoused will be pushed further from the services they need to survive.
During a pandemic, many shelters and homeless services are not safe. Tourism rates are low, and there are thousands of hotel rooms that are vacant. We have the money to rent these rooms, and we have a large need for this space for our unhoused. If we can temporarily house these people in sanitary hotel rooms while we build more affordable housing, we could see a decline in homelessness and help our neighbors get off the streets.
Project Room Key, created by the group LAHSA, uses emergency funds to open these hotel rooms to the unhoused. The project is temporarily housing 1,672 people and has 589 vacant rooms as of March 1.
Housing the houseless temporarily via Project Room Key only addresses part of the issue. When the pandemic ends, the project will likely end with it, and currently the city has no operational budget to address affordable housing or post-pandemic housing once Project Room Key has expired.
Right now, the city of Los Angeles should allocate the $70 billion needed to create enough affordable housing for all who need it. The cost to build affordable housing units is roughly $500,000 per unit. If the city wants to save money, it needs to address the high building costs and legal issues associated with building affordable housing as well.
If the city cannot allocate the money needed to address affordable housing for all, it needs to create alternatives like purchasing the hotels that are being used for Project Room Key, which could save them a substantial amount of money and still house a large majority of the unhoused.
Disrespect or discrimination?
LeBron James recently remarked on TNT during the NBA draft that when he was young, “We would have never picked those guys (Stockton and Malone) in video games, never.” This sent a not-too-subtle message to his fanbase, one more of discrimination than merely disrespect.
Black NBA players since before Lebron was born have groused about the lack of nightlife in Salt Lake City. They have also known that the Mormon church initially barred Blacks from holding the religion’s priesthood, a policy long ago changed. Lebron is effectively asking, “Has anything good ever come out of Salt Lake City?”
James owes the league’s players, coaches, fans and owners, and especially the Jazz and its historically Latter-day Saints owners, an apology, and should issue a statement in support both of small franchises and religious freedom.