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LA Expected To Deploy $3B For Homeless Housing

The resolution of a lawsuit filed almost exactly two years ago could mean the LA city government will spend billions of dollars to buy and build property to house LA's homeless population. 

A new settlement may lead to the city building more tiny home villages and other forms of housing for homeless people.

The city of Los Angeles as part of a settlement has agreed to “create sufficient shelter and/or housing” for 60% of the unhoused people in the city over the next five years, bringing to a close a lawsuit filed by Downtown property owners and stakeholders. Working jointly under the banner of the LA Alliance for Human Rights, they filed a suit in March 2020 against the city and county of Los Angeles over the handling of the homelessness crisis. 

The mechanisms for creating the housing could involve buying hotels and motels, as has been done during the coronavirus pandemic, or building new projects, among other possible avenues. Compliance with the settlement is expected to cost as much as $3B, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“We have families living in tents, women fleeing domestic violence sleeping in parks, people clearly struggling with mental illness walking our streets alone at night," LA City Council President Nury Martinez said in a statement. "I’m proud that this city has stepped up — we are building and doing our part to house our unhoused neighbors." 

To fulfill the settlement, the city of Los Angeles may choose any form of housing or shelter it deems necessary, including purchased or master-leased apartments, hotels, motels and other appropriate buildings, permanent supportive housingtiny homes, safe parking or safe camping lots, or a number of other temporary and permanent housing and shelter types. 

Local and state governments have experimented with purchasing hotels and motels for homeless housing, especially during the pandemic. In 2021, about a third of all hotel sales by dollar volume in California were through a program called Homekey, which created housing by buying buildings and converting them to homeless housing. 

The total number of people housed will be 60% of the city's homeless population, as determined by findings of the 2022 Greater Los Angeles Point-in-Time Homeless Count, which the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority performed in February.

LA County was also named in the suit but wasn't a part of the settlement. City leaders emphasized that without broader help and the county’s resources, city-level efforts wouldn’t go far enough. 

“We need the County of Los Angeles to provide mental healthcare, substance abuse treatment, and outpatient rehab beds. We cannot work in silos, we need to work together if we’re going to truly work to solve the homelessness crisis in the City of Los Angeles,” Martinez said.  

Though it hadn't received the full terms of the settlement, the Los Angeles Community Action Network, or LA CAN, was less optimistic about the resolution's outcomes and the way the agreement had been reached. The Skid Row-based organization is an intervenor in the case but wasn't involved in drafting the settlement agreement.

“This strategy is designed to erase the visible evidence of decades of failed housing policy, while doing nothing to actually end homelessness,” the organization wrote in an Instagram post. “It’s the same failed approach the city has been investing in for decades and it’s an actual loss for everyone else, housed and unhoused, who trusted that this case was a chance to make a real difference in the City’s housing and homeless crisis.”