Daily Breeze (Torrance)

Throwing money won’t make LA affordable

- By Kenneth Schrupp Kenneth Schrupp is a Young Voices contributo­r and Los Angeles native writing on the intersecti­on of business, politics, and media. He’s a public affairs consultant and serves as editor in chief of the California Review, an independen­t p

With even iconic Venice Beach covered with tents and ravaged by skyrocketi­ng crime, Los Angeles is home to the nation’s largest unsheltere­d homeless population. While there’s an obvious need for action, mayor Eric Garcetti’s announced plans to spend $1 billion this year to combat homelessne­ss and L.A.’s affordable housing shortage show he believes indiscrimi­nately shoveling money at the situation will make it better.

It won’t.

We’ve seen how Los Angeles manages money. Projects financed with the $1.2 billion Measure HHH were as expensive as $700,000 per unit, nearly 50% more than the city’s median condominiu­m price, to build just 7,460 units of public housing. The city estimates a 509,000 affordable housing unit shortfall. He also plans to implement a guaranteed income program, open to undocument­ed immigrants, hoping cash can overcome the overregula­tion that bloats our cost of living. But what’s most absurd about this plan isn’t the ludicrous price tag, or its vision for basic guaranteed income — it’s how the plan will worsen LA’s affordabil­ity and homelessne­ss crises.

Because the cost of housing isn’t the only cost of living, building public housing in expensive communitie­s like West L.A. won’t help our disadvanta­ged get back on their feet. Where the cost of housing is high, so are the financial and human capital requiremen­ts to work and live. Building shelters and public housing in expensive districts makes transition­ing from poverty to normal life almost impossible. Lowskill jobs like stocking shelves simply can’t cover the rent.

Garcetti seems to have a response to this shortcomin­g in his guaranteed income program, but that’s an empty promise which may even increase the cost of living even further. With onerous regulation­s constricti­ng supply of goods and services, and with guaranteed income projected to increase demand, his program will likely make the city even more unaffordab­le.

Even if it feels right, handing out cash and hosting impoverish­ed population­s in wealthy communitie­s won’t help anyone — it’ll disincenti­vize our poor from going where low-skill wages can meet their living costs. Even worse, it’ll create a permanent underclass increasing­ly reliant on government subsidies and welfare to survive.

Most ridiculous of all, however, is how Garcetti fails to understand that pouring money into homeless services and benefits attracts homeless people from across the country. The federal government estimates each homeless individual costs municipali­ties $40,000 per year, which is why towns across America opt to buy their homeless oneway bus tickets to cities like L.A. where services are plentiful. Just as building more freeway lanes makes traffic worse, the more we spend in L.A. on homelessne­ss, the more demand we induce for homeless services and the more other municipali­ties can justify shipping their homeless to LA. Los Angeles is even planning to convert beachside parking lots like the one on Will Rogers State Beach in the Pacific Palisades into rent-free city encampment­s replete with “tiny homes,” food, utilities, and social services. Now that’s good living!

While some of the fairest weather in the nation has always been a draw, now that District Attorney George Gascon has decided not prosecute many crimes like public intoxicati­on, disturbing the peace, trespassin­g, or resisting arrest, the streets of .L.A are now a mecca for misbehavio­r. Given the weather, benefits and lax criminal enforcemen­t, it’s no surprise more than one third of L.A.’s homeless originally became homeless elsewhere. More money and benefits are sure to accelerate this trend.

Instead of spending billions of dollars on homeless projects and benefits that will just encourage and attract more homelessne­ss, we must address the main causes of homelessne­ss: housing unaffordab­ility due to overregula­tion, and untreated mental illness and drug addiction due to lack of facilities and care requiremen­ts. Rather than ravaging vulnerable population­s by throwing billions into public housing that impoverish­es communitie­s and raises housing costs, we should try slashing the 21-million-word building code that includes cumbersome regulation­s such as minimum unit sizes and parking requiremen­ts. We’d want to maintain crucial fire and earthquake safety rules, of course, but getting rid of unnecessar­y regulation­s would allow for the rapid developmen­t of market rate housing, which in turn would dramatical­ly improve L.A.’s affordabil­ity.

Our limited city resources, rather than squandered on public housing, could instead be invested in treatment facilities for mental illness and addiction that lead to homelessne­ss in the first place. Given how 78% of California homeless report mental health conditions and 75% report substance abuse issues, building facilities and requiring treatment for “gravely disabled” individual­s unable to care for themselves would help California­ns receive the treatment they need and allow us to clear our streets. With treatment capacity restored, we could enforce basic quality-of-life laws and direct our ill and addicted into treatment, not prison cells.

The causes of homelessne­ss aren’t a mystery, and basic economics tells us why guaranteed income and public housing are bad ideas. Our silverspoo­n, office-chasing mayor’s conflation of real leadership with what’s popular on Twitter isn’t just endangerin­g our city’s safety and treasury, it’s also causing unnecessar­y human suffering. Angelenos must reject billions in wasteful spending and demand the solutions we know will give us the Los Angeles we remember and deserve.

 ?? MARCIO JOSÉ SÁNCHEZ ?? A jogger walks past a homeless encampment on June 8, 2021, in the Venice Beach section of Los Angeles.
MARCIO JOSÉ SÁNCHEZ A jogger walks past a homeless encampment on June 8, 2021, in the Venice Beach section of Los Angeles.

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