LOS ANGELES Mayor Garcetti unveiled an $8.76 billion budget for fiscal year 2016-2017 that would dedicate $138 million toward homelessness.
The funds in the budget come amid a 12 percent rise in homelessness since 2013.
In the Los Angeles region, there are 25,000 homeless individuals.
“This commitment represents a housing first strategy that we know works… that came from LA but that has not been scaled up enough to deal with the ongoing onslaught of new homeless individuals we see on our streets (who) have been pushed out, whether it’s from jails, foster care, whether it’s veterans returning home from war or folks who are pushed onto the streets by rising rents,” Garcetti said, according to NBC LA.
Garcetti’s plan is 2 percent larger than the current year’s budget. Of the funds proposed for homelessness, approximately $64.7 million would come from the general fund, while $6.4 million would be sourced from special accounts. Much of the funding would be allocated toward the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, which is the primary provider of housing and services for homeless people in LA County.
Other funds would pay for “smart teams” in the Los Angeles Police Department that are trained to deal with mentally ill individuals and “hope teams” that would be sent to refer homeless people to services.
A major component of the budget includes a real estate proposal, where $47 million worth of city-owned property would be sold or converted into affordable housing.
The mayor is also looking to raise $20 million by charging a “linkage fee” on developments. Cities including Boston and San Francisco currently impose such fees on developers , which is considered a charge for building new projects.
The proposal, however, is opposed by the construction industry.
“It’s just another layer of costs,” said Tim Piasky, CEO of the local chapter of the Building Industry Association, according to the LA Daily News. Piasky also said imposing these fees would result in higher housing prices passed on to consumers.
But some developers have touted Garcetti’s plan, though they noted that his proposal only makes sense if city land is either free or leased at a sharp discount. Affordable housing developers say it costs nearly $400,000 to build a unit for a homeless person, a price that includes the cost of land.
Jeremy Sidell, chief development officer and communications director at Los Angeles-based affordable housing developer and services provider PATH Partners, said that finding affordable land in Los Angeles is a huge problem, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.
“Any innovative way to address homelessness here in Los Angeles, where there’s a lack of affordable housing, is a step in a right direction,” Sidell said.
Another component in the mayor’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year includes $17.3 million to train and hire 230 new firefighters in the Los Angeles Fire Department, which has not seen new personnel in several years.
It also dedicates $14.8 million to keep the police force at 10,000 officers and offer additional overtime hours, and $12 million for street cleaning.
Councilman Paul Krekorian, chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee, said the mayor’s proposal is a “solid start.”
“I’m happy to see the mayor supporting the council’s work by funding our newly created sidewalk repair program, improving the way the city serves the business community and rebuilding the ranks of our fire department,” Krekorian said, according to NBC LA. (Agnes Constante/AJPress)