October 8, 2019
Some L.A. Homeless Could Get Free Housing That's More Expensive Than Regular Housing

Some homeless people in Los Angeles could end up in free housing that, on a per-unit basis, costs more than what a private home in the city would cost, USA Today reports.

The city has been trying valiantly to address its problem of an estimated 27,000 unsheltered homeless people who occupy its streets, oft living in tents or sleeping bags or under overpasses. A city initiative passed three years ago, Proposition HHH, was intended to address the problem by providing an estimated 10,000 units of free housing.

However, thanks to cost overruns and poor management, the number of units that's going to be available is actually closer to 8,000, and the price per unit will exceed the median price of a family home in the city on the fair market. What's more, three years into a ten-year plan, not a single unit has been built.

Addressing L.A.'s Homeless Problem

Back in 2016, L.A. voters approved a bond proposal, called Proposition HHH, that would, in theory, help address the homeless problem in the City Of Angels. The bill authorized $1.2 billion, to be paid over ten years, to provide housing, including some dormitory-style facilities, for the city's homeless.

At the time, according to Los Angeles Magazine, City Council President Herb Wesson said that "this might be the most important thing that all of us do in our lives." The city's advocates for the homeless suggested that the proposal would turn things around after decades of neglect.

two homeless people
Pixabay | ales_kartal

Unexpected Snafus

Unfortunately, the plan to implement the new housing has been bedeviled by cost overruns and construction delays.

For example, it seems that planners didn't account for consulting and financing costing more than expected. Together, those things can contribute as much as 40 percent to the cost of a building project.

When the numbers are crunched, it looks like the "free" housing that the homeless are going to get will cost more than an actual home at market value. All told, the average price, per unit, of the new domiciles is expected to be $531,373, with the costs of the apartment units exceeding $600,000.

By comparison, the median cost of a condo in L.A. is $546,000, and the median cost of a single-family home in Los Angeles County is $627,690.

What's more, rather than the 10,000 units the proposition approved, when all is said and done it looks like only 7,640 units will be built. And as of this writing, not a single unit has been opened up for occupancy.

City Controller Ron Galperin says that the delays are hurting the city's homeless as well as the taxpayers footing the bill for the construction.

"I don't think anyone can say what Los Angeles has done to create and build housing for the unsheltered has been successful or good enough," he said.