Other | October 7, 2022

Every Angeleno Deserves a Safe and Affordable Place to Live

Even during a global pandemic, there has been slow but steady progress towards housing unhoused Angelenos. The Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority (LAHSA) released data from this year’s Homeless Count, which showed a 4% increase in homelessness in Los Angeles County, and only a 1.6% increase in the City of Los Angeles, between 2022 and 2020 (there was not a count in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic). This increase is much lower from the prior two-year period (2018-2020) which experienced a 26% increase. The County successfully prevented a mass homelessness crisis during the pandemic when renters lost their jobs. This in part was thanks to philanthropic and government responses, which did allow the pandemic to drastically reverse the progress of investments made over the last six years to build and provide more housing.

Many families struggled to meet their basic needs during the pandemic and feared evictions and falling into homelessness. Gloria (named changed to protect privacy) felt this pressure when she lost her job at the start of the stay-at-home order – here is her story shared by Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE), a grantee of the California Community Foundation (CCF):

Gloria has lived at her current residence for 12 years and is a street vendor who sells clothes at a transit plaza. When the pandemic hit, her whole family contracted the virus, which kept them from working, and cut every source of income, forcing her to make tough decisions on how to spend her little savings like having to choose between buying food or paying rent. Fortunately, Gloria and her family recovered from COVID-19, but are still not able to catch up with the unpaid rent and are worried about being evicted. Gloria is waiting on the approval of her application for rental assistance from the State’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), which will pay the back rent directly to her landlord and avoid eviction.

Gloria’s story is not unique. More than 365,000 households in Los Angeles County lost all sources of income during the COVID-19 pandemic. These families are just one paycheck or medical emergency away from being unable to pay rent, receiving an eviction notice, and becoming homeless. Given Los Angeles’s lack of affordable housing, experts in housing and homelessness estimated that one-third of the 365,000 households that lost income would have become homeless if evicted during the pandemic.

To avoid this wave of evictions, advocates urged elected officials to provide rental assistance, along with tools to pause evictions of households waiting for the assistance to be paid to property owners. ERAP has received and is processing more than 185,000 applications from households behind on their rent. Our grantees provide outreach and technical assistance for those who lack the language or technological skills to complete the completely online application. Many populations that faced these barriers to accessing services did see a rise in homelessness, such as Latinos who experienced a 26% growth in homelessness. These temporary policies adopted during the pandemic to avoid evictions prove that we need to increase direct services and legal representation that help stop the inflow of homelessness while we construct new affordable housing.

Preventing homelessness through securing additional tenant protections is just as important as building more affordable housing in addressing the housing and homelessness crisis. Because of this, CCF’s grantees like SAJE have launched a campaign to pass a ballot initiative to create a new revenue stream to fund prevention and production programs that will keep housing insecure Angelenos in their homes. Known as “United to House LA” (and Measure ULA on your ballot) this initiative would impose a fee on real estate transactions of over $5 million which constitutes only the top 3% of real estate transactions. Proceeds would support a permanent solution by funding emergency assistance and new affordable housing development in the City of Los Angeles. For years, CCF’s Housing program area has worked on the 3 P’s of housing (production of new housing, preservation of existing units, and protection of tenants from displacement) as a proven strategy to make significant strides in addressing housing affordability and homelessness. CCF supports this initiative as an opportunity to scale proven strategies. We believe measures like this will continue to push the homelessness numbers down and alleviate the affordable housing crisis.

To learn more about CCF’s housing programs, please contact Francisco Covarrubias, Program Officer, at fcovarrubias@calfund.org or 213-452-6257.

To learn more about the United to House LA Initiative click here.

To learn more about Strategic Actions for a Just Economy click here.

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