When it comes to housing, Los Angeles City elected officials and the city’s archaic bureaucracy have failed nearly every community. Renters, housing providers, businesses, workers and the disabled community desperately want to safely use our streets and sidewalks again. City officials have squandered billions of dollars allocated to end homelessness in Los Angeles. What’s more, almost a half billion dollars in COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) funds have been bungled up in the city’s bureaucratic red tape.
Los Angeles City officials told voters they needed funds to meet the needs of housing L.A.’s homeless. Voters overwhelmingly agreed to tax themselves billions of dollars to house our homeless population by approving Proposition HHH in 2016 and Measure H in 2017.
A review by the L.A. City Controller states that L.A.’s homeless crisis continues despite promises made by L.A. politicians to build 10,000 supportive homeless units. Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority estimates that people experiencing homelessness have increased 41 percent since voters approved homeless tax measures. What’s clear to me is that promises made by L.A. politicians were broken.
There is an imminent threat facing Angelenos living in the San Fernando Valley and citywide. Hundreds of thousands of tenants/renters live in daily fear of losing their rental home or apartment. At the same time, thousands of housing providers of smaller units (nearly half of all housing providers own and rent out a single-home, duplex or less than 5 units) fear they may lose their life savings, which is stored up in their rental investment property. These providers are in desperate need of immediate help.
The city of Los Angeles received $495 million in ERAP funds and proceeded to mismanage its release to Angelenos in need of assistance. These funds were given to the city of Los Angeles to help COVID-19 impacted middle- and low-income renters stay in their apartments and homes. Renters earning 80 percent of the area median income are eligible for funds that will pay 100 percent of their back rents. On April 30, Los Angeles city closed the ERAP application process, leaving thousands of renters and housing providers’ fate hanging in the balance. After countless pleas by renters, housing providers and housing advocates, L.A. City officials finally re-opened the application process the first week of September.
As of Sept. 7, housing providers and renters have yet to see half of the funds released on behalf of qualifying renters to housing providers. The living status of literally thousands of San Fernando Valley renters will change to “homeless” when eviction and foreclosure moratoriums are lifted. These renters could join over 41,000 unhoused neighbors now living on L.A. streets, sidewalks, and freeway underpasses in our local communities.
The city’s inept system of identifying citizens who qualify for this aid and distributing the funds could result in thousands of renters becoming homeless and force hundreds of housing providers to cut their losses and sell their sole source of personal income. The city’s handling of the ERAP program has been so egregious, that the City Council recently voted to relinquish the role that L.A. City’s Housing Department was to play in administrating the funds to the state of California.
It’s clear to me that Los Angeles City officials have demonstrated that they are not qualified to solve our city’s complex problems of housing our middle-class workers and providing adequate, affordable housing for our homeless neighbors. L.A. housing policies have caused housing prices to skyrocket to more than $800,000 per unit, making a standard 3-bedroom house unaffordable for a typical L.A. worker who earns less than $90,000 a year.
I am a housing and transit expert. As a legislative housing and small business advocate for nearly three decades, I promoted and supported policies designed to expand opportunities for working families to own their own homes. I am running for mayor of Los Angeles to fight “For A Better L.A.” I’m not afraid of hard work and I know what it takes to get the job done.
Join our movement to house our homeless neighbors and create housing that is affordable for Angelenos.
Mel Wilson is a housing advocate, real estate asset manager and Realtor who owns Mel Wilson and Associates-Realtors in the city of San Fernando. He is a candidate for mayor of Los Angeles.