Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

LA County to Build One or More Units of Affordable Housing Over Next Two Years (Seriously)

"Game-changing, creative scalable permanent housing solutions for homelessness in Los Angeles County"

On Monday, the Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative awarded $4.5 million to five different organizations in a contest to propose "game-changing creative and scalable permanent housing solutions for those experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles County."

Voters of LA County approved Measure H in March, 2017. This law added a 1/4-cent sales tax throughout Los Angeles that was to be devoted to homeless services and programs. It is projected to generate $355 million each year for ten years.

The "Housing Innovation Challenge" was a one-time event designed to "activate stakeholders and creative strategists across the region to contribute sustainable solutions to homelessness." The goal was to develop cheaper means of producing housing as well as more "creative" financial models for developing.

The LA County Homeless Initiative received 50 proposals, each of which was reviewed by a panel of experts in urban planning, real-estate development, affordable housing, and architecture.

Four awards are being given at the $1 million level and one award at $500,000. Each award is supposed to result in "the production of permanent housing for homeless families or individuals living in Los Angeles County."

The awards go to:

Brooks + Scarpa Architects, Inc., for NEST, a Prefab Modular Sustainable Kit of Parts that can be assembled on any typical 50 x 150 foot parcel. ($1 million)

Flyaway Homes, LLC, for Modular Permanent Supportive Housing Communities, to scale their model of leveraging private equity to develop supportive housing faster and at one quarter the cost per person. ($1 million)

LifeArk, SPC, for LifeArk Micro-Communities, a kit-of-parts building system that is developable on any lost size or shape. ($1 million)

United Dwelling, for Detached Garage Conversion into Affordable Studios, for its institutional development of beautifully-designed garage-converted Accessory Dwelling Units. ($1 million)

Restore Neighborhoods Los Angeles, for South LA Bungalow Project for its neighborhood shared equity model for accessible units built by-right in a traditional bungalow style courtyard. ($500,000)

The receipt of an award means the honored entity will enter a contractual agreement with the County of Los Angeles. The organization will have 24 months to deliver on the money received, and it must result in (I quote from the LA County Homeless Initiative website), "the creation of one or more units of permanent housing for homeless families or individuals in LA County."

It is unclear to us how $1 million should result in the creation of as little as one unit of housing. Perhaps the bulk of the money is to go into the design of the idea? But then, what is the purpose of designing the idea if there is no plan for implementing it and creating a meaningful number of housing units? There are roughly 30,000 homeless individuals in the county.

Perhaps most unclear of all is where this housing would be placed - assuming the county came through and coughed up some of the $355 million it is raising through sales taxes every year. The City of Los Angeles has the money and the desire to build housing for the homeless, but in each neighborhood they wish to build, stiff opposition is the response.

Also missing from all official discussion about housing for the "homeless" is the immense spectrum of people that word encompasses. A person can be "homeless" because he has lost a job or is underemployed. A person can also be "homeless" because he has a persistent and obdurate mental health or substance-abuse problem. Merely including "services" as part of the housing, as some of the award recipients propose, will not help those who have no wish to be helped. In fact, many of these "homeless" would not be coaxed into any of these housing projects no matter how "sustainable" they are. And these latter are the biggest problem facing the region regarding the "homeless."


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