There has been a long-standing battle with homeless in the State of California and Los Angeles seems to be losing by every . California released its annual homelessness count that revealed that after a significant 4 percent drop from the years 2017 to 2018, Los Angeles’s homeless counts grew by 16 percent in 2019 which brings the post-2011 growth up to 52 percent. These numbers are worrying given the fact that the city serves as an epicenter of a particularly brutal style of homelessness. Of the people who are homeless, about 75 percent are unsheltered which means a higher risk of typhus and typhoid among other diseases creating a public health emergency. The more people pouring into the streets of Los Angeles are either the perpetrators of crime or victims of crime themselves.
What we are seeing is a rise of semi-permanent structures that are threatening to take an entire city block. These makeshift structures for the city’s homeless people are now becoming a recognizable part of the city’s landscape with barbeque grills and clusters of bikes alongside them. The mayor’s response to this problem has been to increase public spending on homelessness, but so far, he has done so little. I remember a few years back when the issue first hit the headlines, the mayor jumped into action with an ambitious plan to build emergency shelters for the homeless people in all the 15 districts. But as the mayor would soon realize it, building ‘emergency’ centers would not be easy. The plan has faced a vigorous resistance not just from the neighborhoods where the residents fear more crime and blight, but also from some within the homeless community who hold that it would be better living independently, and on the tents.
In June 2019, Los Angeles released the results of their findings from their last and most recent count which showed that homelessness in the county was up 12 percent and 16 percent in the city. Yet, I fail to understand why communities around that state have been channeling more money into services for the homeless, like the L. A’s Measure H Sales tax, which adds $355 million each year into the arsenal. According to the advocates for the homeless, “Our housing crisis is our homeless crisis,” Elise Buik, president and chief executive of the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, told the New York Times. “And we’ve got to get people to understand that.”
Dealing with Homelessness Crisis
One of the misconceptions that have arisen over the recent past in the fight against homelessness is the fact that people struggling with mental illness, substance abuse and homeless people are refusing help and prefer to live on the streets. Much emphasis has been on the Measure H money which, according to Peter Lynn, the executive director of L.A Homeless Services Authority (L.A.H.S.A), has significantly increased the number of people the region’s service providers have been able to help. The authority says that outreach workers have been able to engage with 34,110 people over the year which is triple the number before the introduction of Measure H.
“I do feel like the first honest year to assess will be to freeze-frame from now to next year,” Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles told me late last week.
Ultimately, housing affordability has been the main issue and the main driver of homelessness in the county. According to the L.A.H.S.A figures, a median Angeleno would have to earn $47.52 an hour just to afford the median monthly rent. What the state needs is a bill that would effectively enforce more construction. For a fact, one such bill that would have brought a revolution to the homelessness crisis is Senate Bill 50, which was effectively crashed for the year. The Bill would have allowed a denser development in many areas including some neighborhoods of the single-family houses.
Vacant Property Tax is a Good Move, But it’s Not What LA Wants
Elsewhere, the Vacant Property Tax was on the ballot for Oakland Voters in Alameda County of California in November 2018. The bill was approved. This bill will establish an annual tax on vacant land and buildings. Vacant lots would be taxed at a minimum rate of $6000 per parcel and unoccupied condos would be taxed at a minimum rate of $3000 per parcel. The parcels that allow a ground-floor commercial activity and have a vacant ground floor would also be taxed at $3000 per parcel.
What the bill does is that it allows the Oakland City Council to set the tax rates at amounts lower than the maximum rate without having to go back to the voters. The measure comes as a response to the difficulties with finding the money to manage the homelessness crisis and to also encourage the development of more than 5,000 vacant properties across the city. However, the bill was under a lot of fire from property managers, brokers, and developers who had lined up nearly $700,000 to counter the motion, saying that the property taxes in the state are already high and that the property owners should not be punished for using their property as they wish.
A 2018 report from the U.C. Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation found that in Oakland alone, there are about 4,000 privately owned vacant lots most of which are sized for the single-family homes or duplexes and are sitting on residential areas. The city also estimates another 1,000 vacant homes and other structures that are potentially eligible for the tax.
“Part of what’s so powerful about Measure W,” Rebecca Kaplan said, is that it would be a demonstration that “we can actually solve multiple problems at once. And we need to.”
Identical measures have already been implemented in major cities like Vancouver, Melbourne and Washington D.C., and Kaplan is optimistic that more vacant structures would be identified if the tax measures pass. Pointing to Vancouver, Kaplan said that officials learned that 5 percent of the city’s fully built residence was sitting empty. The measure is being implemented on more states, for example, Richmond and there have been reports that San Francisco officials have considered a much similar measure for 2019.
Here is how the measure would work to resolve housing crisis; first it is meant to dis-incentivize speculative property investing and encourage housing development and secondly should the homeowners choose not to develop or use their vacant property, the new tax they’d owe would provide funding for affordable housing and homeless solutions.
I think if the county of LA was to implement such an action plan, the would relieve the already constrained housing market. But, the measure only provides a short term solution to the problem. Rent control and other similar measures are not the way to go, the plan should be about adding more units into the market. Also, there needs to be a county-wide awareness of programs that help people get into homes and one such program is low to money down program which I encourage and help people to get started on. If you are desperately looking for a house but you are worried about your downpayment and closing cost, worry no more. Please contact one of our many agents stationed all across the county of LA and let’s talk about how you will get into your home with no downpayment and closing cost. To speak to our VIP agents in your area, visit our VIP Agent’s page at https://thepowerisnow.com/vipagentsservices/.If you’d like to keep yourself up to date with the current development, visit our blogs page at https://thepowerisnow.com/blog/. In addition, if you’d like to set an appointment and speak to me directly, use the following link, https://calendly.com/thepowerisnow/ericfrazier
Disclaimer: The views and opinions of Eric Lawrence Frazier are his own and do not necessarily represent views of First Bank or any organization affiliated with Eric Lawrence Frazier or the Power Is Now Media Inc. First Bank is an Equal Credit Opportunity Lender. Eric Lawrence Frazier MBA is also a Vice President and Mortgage Advisor with First Bank. NMLS#461807 and a California Licensed Real Estate Broker DRE# 01143482. Email: Eric.email@example.com. Ph: 714- 475-8629.
Eric Lawrence Frazier MBA
President and CEO
The Power Is Now Media Inc.
Sources & Works Cited: