A tent stands on E Fifth Street at Towne Avenue in Skid Row on Thursday morning, Dec. 17, 2015 near where General Dogon used to live.; Credit: Maya Sugarman/KPCCTake Two
Opponents to L.A. city ballot measure HHH say it only pays to build housing for the homeless – it doesn’t provide the money for services, too.
But there is a path on Tuesday’s vote that could lead to cash for these programs.
Two L.A. County supervisors are retiring – Don Knabe and Mike Antonovich – and who takes their seats might throw their support behind a separate ballot measure in the spring to increase sales taxes that fund services.
KPCC reporter Rina Palta and Mary Plummer break it down.
Why can’t the money from HHH be used for services?
Palta: Because it’s only intended to build buildings – create the actual physical structures for people who are currently homeless to live in.
It’s also a bond measure, which really means one-time funds, not an ongoing stream of revenue that the city has available to it in indefinitely.
The argument is, we need something that will be a permanent source of cash to use for services.
What kind of services are we talking about here?
Palta: There’s a wide range of stuff that falls into this category, and the county has a plan that’s about 100 pages long with different strategies.
One would create outreach teams to get people signed up for income programs they may qualify for, like disability benefits.
Another would provide mental health services by hiring case managers and counselors who may work with some people for a lifetime.
Why is it important to have both homeless housing and services at the same time?
Palta: Housing helps provide stability for those currently homeless on the streets.
Services will address the prevention of homelessness so more people don’t end up on the streets of places like Skid Row.
To fund services, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors would have to approve putting the issue on the ballot. How does this Tuesday’s vote factor in?
Plummer: Four out of the five supervisors need to support this measure. This election that this could be the moment for a power shift on the board of Supervisors depending on how the races for the two open seats shake out.
Palta: Last time this issue came up in July, the three members of the Board who will remain, all voted in favor of a sales tax.
So at least one of the newcomers needs to be open to the idea of placing this on the ballot. Where do the candidates stand?
Plummer: Only two out of the four candidates are firm yes’s.
One is Democratic candidate Darrell Park, who’s running to represent the 5th district. He supports a measure that lasts until 90 percent of homeless people have housing.
The other is Republican Steve Napolitano, and he’s running for the 4th district seat which covers the South Bay. He supports a 1/4 cent sales tax measure with a 15 year limit.
Both of these candidates’ opponents were less clear on the issue.
Republican candidate Kathryn Barger, who’s competing against Park, said she didn’t want to comment on a tax measure she hadn’t seen.
And in District 4, Congresswoman Janice Hahn, who is the democratic candidate running against Napolitano, is calling for an emergency plan to address homelessness. But she didn’t commit to whether she’d support the sales tax measure.
If one of the candidates who support the measure get elected into office and votes for it, then it would come before voters in a March referendum. Why?
Plummer: Any local sales tax that is earmarked for a specific use requires a two-thirds supermajority vote for approval.
How much would the sales tax increase? And how much would be raised?
Plummer: This would be 1/4 cent sales tax increase at the county level. Keep in mind we’ve got a 1/4 cent sales tax at the state level that is sunsetting at the end of the year, so that would help off set an increase.
But this could raise an estimated $355 million a year.
Palta: However, county officials estimated it would take $450 million to get these services working well. So they’d be short of what they need, but it is by far the biggest proposal anyone’s put forward in memory.
If HHH fails, does that mean this sales tax proposal will die with it, too?
Plummer: HHH and the potential measure we’ve been talking about are different funding streams.
But it’s really too early to tell whether a county sales tax measure will even make it on the ballot. That depends a lot on the makeup of the new Board of Supervisors.
Right now, the candidates appear to be split on their support for putting a sales tax measure before voters.
A homeless man sleeps beside the wall on the sidewalk along a street in downtown Los Angeles, California. If approved, Measure HHH could provide up to 10,000 units of permanent supportive housing for the most chronically homeless. ; Credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty ImagesTake Two
Los Angeles is known as the homeless capital of the United States, and the numbers support that title.
According to data released in May by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the homeless population rose by 6 percent in L.A. County to 46, 874. The same census also found that the number of homeless women increased by 55 percent between 2013 and 2016.
One effort to tackle homelessness is on the November ballot. It’s called Measure HHH — Homelessness Reduction and Prevention, Housing and Facilities Bond — and is proposed by the city of Los Angeles.
So what is it, and what will it mean for you?
Here are five things you need to know about HHH – and five reasons some people are not in favor of the measure.
What is HHH?
Measure HHH is co-authored by L.A. City Council members Jose Huizar and Marqueece Harris-Dawson. Speaking with Take Two, Harris-Dawson described HHH as:
“A measure on the L.A. city ballot to fund a bond to build 10,000 units of permanent supportive housing and provide several million dollars for affordable housing in the city of Los Angeles. “
The bond aims to raise $1.2 billion, which the city of Los Angeles would use to leverage additional funding from the state, federal agencies and philanthropic organizations. The plan is to generate a total of $4 billion to spend on housing.
How much will it cost?
What everyone wants to know: how will this hit me in my pocket? Measure HHH will be funded by property tax dollars. To break it down, homeowners in L.A. will pay an extra $9.64 a year for every $100,000 in property owned. To put it another way, a home valued at $700,000 would incur a little under $70 a year in additional property taxes. Renters will not be on the hook for this.
So who will qualify for one of the units created under HHH?
The bond money raised from HHH will only serve the city of Los Angeles, which has a homeless population of around 28,000.
As for who gets the keys to a new place? Marqueece Harris- Dawson said:
“The County of Los Angeles has the Coordinated Entry System, or CES. That database puts people who are at the most vulnerable situations at the top of the list. As units become available, people at the top of the list will be offered those units. So the way you qualify for housing is being a part of the CES system, which almost every homeless person is a part of.”
According to the City of Los Angeles, the cost of one of these housing units is about $350,000. On average the City will finance about a third of each unit. Also, once the tenant has moved in, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) provides vouchers to help with rent and some operating costs. When able, the tenant pays 30 to 40 percent of their gross monthly income on rent.
How many people will be housed under HHH, if approved?
Around 13,000 is the current estimate among HHH supporters.
Will HHH end homelessness?
Supporters of the measure say no, it won’t. But if voters approve HHH, some units could be available within six months.
To date, $1.7 million has been spent on the Yes on HHH campaign. Opponents say they have spent nothing. For some of the concerns around the approval of HHH, Take Two spoke with Skid Row homeless advocate General Jeff.
Measure HHH won’t help enough people; it’s only focused on the City of Los Angeles
“The main concern of the needs of the people on the streets is that we ALL need housing, that’s 50,000 in L.A. County — 50,000, not 10,000. So to house 10,000 and to leave 40,000 on the streets, including men, women and women with children, is unacceptable.”
The units may be built in areas where the homeless are not welcome
“Even if HHH passes, where are they going to construct these 10,000 units across the City of L.A.? Because NIMBY-ism, Not In My Back Yard, will be a serious fight that a lot of people will be concerned about their property values going down if they have low-income housing in their communities. How is that going to sustain itself in terms of two communities coming together?”
To answer General Jeff’s question: Under HHH, 12 parcels of land have been identified as possible development sites in Lincoln Heights, Sylmar, Marina Del Rey, Westchester and San Pedro.
As part of the deal, Los Angeles County has signed a Memorandum of Understanding to provide support services, including mental health treatment and drug rehabilitation, for those being housed in the new units.
Funding for support services from L.A. County is not clearly defined
Mark Ryavec, president of the Venice Stakeholders Association is also opposed to Measure HHH.
“Right now, the County is AWOL. They have not indicated how they’re going to provide the funds to provide the services for the people who are going to be in the permanent supportive housing: how they’re going to provide the outreach, the counselors, the mental health counseling. It needs to be on the table and thought out and funded, before you go ahead with the housing.”
The $1.2 billion bond will cost property tax payers closer to $2 billion
According to the City’s Tax Rate Statement, the interest on the bond is estimated at $693 million, which will be added to property tax bills.
Once the funds are collected, who will be in charge of oversight?
This is a big concern for Mark Ryavec:
“One of the other major concerns with HHH is the lack of oversight. We have seen in the past, both in the community college district and, for example, advanced development and investment where there was millions and millions of dollars of fraudulent billings, that you run the risk of fraud and corruption of extraordinary levels.”
You can find out more about HHH by clicking on the blue button above and listening to the audio.
Want to learn more about other local ballot measures or the California propositions? Check out KPCC’s Voter Game Plan for details.
On October 21, a new regulation went into effect for shelters funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that makes clear all individuals seeking shelter should be welcomed and respected in accordance with their gender identity. This rule codifies previous guidance that HUD Secretary Julián Castro announced at our 2015 National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness.
The Alliance welcomes this rule. It will promote safety, fairness, and dignity for all individuals seeking shelter. In the past, too many shelters turned transgender people away or would not shelter them based on who they know themselves to be. These responses have often been driven by a lack of understanding, which can hinder a community’s efforts to end homelessness.
Recently, a coalition of more than 300 anti-sexual assault and domestic violence organizations — including rape crisis shelters — published a statement supporting laws and policies that respect transgender people’s gender identity. They rejected the myth that fairness for transgender people’s endangers the safety or privacy of others. The Alliance takes the same stand, informed by the experience of shelters around the country.
There is still a lot of work to do to address homelessness disproportionately experienced by LGBTQ youth and adults. We need to work with families to address and prevent the conflicts that often push youth onto the streets, and invest in connecting every person with stable housing. But in the meantime, we need to make sure that access to shelter is safe and fair.
Register for HUD’s trainings in November on the new regulation, and check out their resources for shelters and transitional housing programs looking to ensure their programs are transgender-inclusive.