L.A.’s $1.2 Billion Bond Measure to Combat Homelessness Not Keeping Pace With Growing Need for Housing: Audit

Belongings of the homeless are seen on a downtown L.A. sidewalk on Skid Row on May 30, 2019. (Credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

Belongings of the homeless are seen on a downtown L.A. sidewalk on Skid Row on May 30, 2019. (Credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

Nearly three years after Los Angeles voters approved a $1.2 billion bond program to build up to 10,000 housing units for the homeless, an audit has found that no units have been made available and there are only 19 projects under construction across the city.

Meanwhile, costs per unit set to be built are rising dramatically.

In a report released Tuesday, City Controller Ron Galperin said the 10-year plan under Measure HHH hasn’t lived up to its promise because of the high price of construction, stalled approvals and regulatory barriers.

“While 19 projects are under construction and two are scheduled to open in the coming months, it is clear that the City’s HHH program is not keeping pace with the growing demand for supportive housing and shelter,” the audit stated.

Measure HHH, which passed with more than 77% of the vote in 2016, was meant to build units that would cost about $350,000 to $414,000 each. But the audit has found 1,000 of the units cost $600,000 or more.

The median cost of each unit is $531,000, and now only 7,640 units are set to be funded, according to the audit. All of the funds from the measure have already been allocated to 114 projects, the audit stated.

Many of the units funded by the measure cost more than the median price of a condo in the city, or a single-family home in the county, Galperin said in a news release. Costs are still expected to rise as the projects are expected to take three to six years each to complete.

“The length of time needed to complete these projects does not meet the level of urgency needed to match the magnitude of our homelessness crisis,” the report stated.

The city controller's office created this graphic to go with its audit of Measure HHH published on Oct. 8, 2019.

The city controller’s office created this graphic to go with its audit of Measure HHH published on Oct. 8, 2019.

Galperin recommended directing more of the HHH money to building temporary shelters.

The report comes amid a homelessness crisis that has left tens of thousands of people living on the streets. Homelessness in the city has jumped some 27% since HHH was approved in 2016 – to more than 36,000 people in 2019.

The audit also found that in fiscal year 2018-2019, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority only moved 167 people to permanent supportive housing, referred 598 people to bridge housing and 39 with with substance abuse problems to treatment, and connected 56 people with mental health conditions to services.

This meant that the group, which received a combined total of $54 million in funding from the city and county in the past two fiscal years, did not achieve most of its city outreach goals, according to the report.

Galperin’s audit also found that Los Angeles sold too many bonds before it was ready to spend the proceeds.

“Even as the city solicited and developed ideas to tackle these issues in more innovative ways, it continued to award Proposition HHH funds before some of the ideas could fully blossom,” the audit read.

The city’s controller criticized management of the bonds and said that the city should rethink its outreach policies and focus on ways to save time and reduce costs while building housing units.

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