Proposition HHH puts housing projects for homeless on November ballot

October 12, 2016
In The News

Los Angeles residents will be able to vote in November on a measure that would build 10,000 housing units over 10 years for homeless individuals.

Proposition HHH would lend $1.2 billion to developers from general obligation bonds paid by property taxes. One third of the developers’ housing projects’ costs would be covered by the loan and they would raise the other two-thirds of their planned costs through state, federal and private sources.

The measure would also subsidize housing for low-income tenants and create facilities for mental health, drug and alcohol treatment, and housing assistance.

Los Angeles County spent almost $1 billion last year trying to combat homelessness, according to a report released by the Research and Evaluation Services Unit in the Chief Executive Office.

[Related: LA city approves $1.85B plan to address homelessness]

Homelessness in Los Angeles has also increased by 15 percent in the last three years, said Michael Lens, assistant professor in urban planning.

Lois Takahashi, professor of urban planning and Asian American studies, saidProposition HHH would save taxpayers money in Westwood and across Los Angeles because sheltering homeless populations in jails, emergency rooms or other places costs more than building or leasing permanent housing.

The measure would also help house homeless people in Westwood living on the streets and in cars, Lens said.

Lens said he thinks the only downside of the proposition would be the increase in property taxes. However, he said he thinks many homeowners can avoid higher taxes because of California Proposition 13, which caps the annual increase in the assessed values of properties at 2 percent and caps the property tax rates at 1 percent of full cash values.

If the proposition passes, LA officials would need to overcome obstacles before developers can build housing. For example, some residents may oppose new construction in certain areas, Takahashi said.

Lisa Chapman, president of the Westwood Neighborhood Council, said the homeless population in Westwood has doubled most years. In February, Westwood community members counted about 115 homeless individuals and homeless shelters in the area.

Takahashi said she believes homelessness arises from a storm of crises and complications.

“I would describe the homelessness issue in Westwood as stemming from a combination of factors: high housing costs, labor market pressures on wages and need for varying types of resources,” Takahashi said.

[Related: Editorial: State must invest in short-term relief for homeless Angelenos]

Chapman said Westwood officials work with People Assisting the Homeless, or PATH, to encourage homeless individuals to take advantage of housing and PATH resources.

Westwood’s homeless task force, Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu and UCLA also play roles in helping the homeless community, Chapman said.

Chapman said she thinks some homeowners and business owners may vote against the proposition because of the possibility of increased property taxes. However, she said she thinks residents should consider that not dealing with homelessness is affecting homeowners’ property values and businesses even more than an added fee would.

Lens said he thinks people should consider donating to organizations that help homeless individuals because Proposition HHH would only fund a limited amount of housing, and the city cannot guarantee that homelessness will decrease. He added he thinks residents should allow supportive housing to be built in the area and work with local police to treat people on the street more humanely.