A couple of months ago, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled his 2017-2018 fiscal year budget and he had promised to set aside $138 million to deal with homelessness. Since then, the city has only spent about $65 million on things such as services and programs for homeless people, which include housing, shelter beds and outreach workers. However, Mayor Garcetti and his aides claim that the rest of the budgeted amount comes from city property that has been set aside for development of homeless and low-income housing or to sell to secure funds. The problem is that none of the land has been sold and there have been no final development agreements reached to build housing. To makes matters worse, the homeless population in Los Angeles has increased 20 percent this year to over 34,000 homeless people.
City Councilman Mike Bonin is in support of a storage center program in his district, which failed to materialize in San Pedro because of community opposition, and he is likely to also be met with opposition for that program in his district. Councilman Bonin stated,
I’ve had plenty of outreach in my district. There are only so many times you can give somebody a McDonald’s gift card. Where can we give folks a place to put their head down that night?
Mayor Garcetti’s budget relied on $20 million coming from a linkage fee, which is a financing tool that cities have used to develop affordable housing, but the city council never approved it because of fears that it would raise housing costs. More than $50 million of the $65 million that has been spent to deal with homelessness went to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, which has been slowly distributing rent vouchers and other homelessness relief.
This story is another reminder about the pitfalls of rushing into things without properly planning them out. Los Angeles leaders had committed to fixing the homelessness issue, which is a very good thing, but they failed to properly secure funding and actually plan out what needs to be done.