Last week at the end of a two-day fundraising trip in California, President Donald Trump rejected a request from Governor Gavin Newsom and 13 California mayors, including Mayor Eric Garcetti, for more federal funds to combat the state’s homelessness crisis.
The Trump administration’s refusal of the state’s request comes as the president has grown increasingly critical of California’s response to the homeless crisis, claiming general mismanagement by local governments.
The White House Council of Economic Advisors released a 40-page report this month examining the current homelessness situation around the country, mostly singling out Democratic strongholds in Western and Northeastern states, while putting the blame on “overregulation of housing markets.” It also said that “more tolerable conditions” (read: less pressure from law enforcement) are enticing people to live on the streets.
While California, and cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles are right to ask for more federal assistance, the Trump Administration has shown that it lacks a comprehensive understanding of the homeless crisis in California.
While at a fundraising event last week President Trump said that we “can’t let Los Angeles, San Francisco and numerous other cities destroy themselves by allowing what’s happening.” In that respect, he is correct.The prevalence of tent encampments and people wandering the streets without proper mental health treatment should be seen as a collective embarrassment and tragedy, one that we can’t allow to continue.
However, what both the president and the CEA report fails to discuss are solutions to address the driving cause of homelessness in California and the rest of the United States: the increasingly high cost of living combined with a lack of affordable housing.
While it’s fair to say that California’s building bylaws and NIMBYism are slogging down construction rates, an increase in housing development on its own won’t necessarily bring an end to the homeless crisis. What is needed is very low-income housing.
Here in Downtown, in one of the hottest development markets in the nation, many of the projects in construction or in planning in Downtown are luxury high-end residences, where a studio could run more than $2,000.
Any affordable housing component is small, if present at all. We also find the reported proposed strategies from the Trump administration for removing homeless individuals from the streets to be abhorrent at best, and at worst, a rehash of failed strategies considered in the past. Any plan to try to destroy encampments or arrest homeless individuals would rightfully run up against legal challenges.
If the president is truly onboard with addressing homelessness in California, and not simply using the problem as a campaign tool, we advise him to go about it with compassion and a complete understanding the the issue.
©Los Angeles Downtown News 2019