Delays, high costs plague efforts to house LA’s homeless

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A $1.2 billion program aimed at building housing for homeless people in Los Angeles has been plagued by delays and soaring costs that have seen the average price of constructing a single unit jump to nearly $559,000, according to a city audit.

Voters passed a 2016 bond measure to help ease the deepening homelessness crisis by creating up to 10,000 housing units over a decade.

Since then, only three new housing projects have been completed and others that are under construction won’t be open for at least two more years, City Controller Ron Galperin said in a report released Wednesday.

“Meanwhile, the crisis has gotten far worse, compounded by pressing COVID-19 health and safety concerns. To truly reduce homelessness as LA voters intended, the city must meet the moment by pivoting to an action plan that will house more people right away. We cannot stay the course when people are dying every day on our streets,” Galperin said in a statement.

Galperin recommends the city shift gears and immediately begin converting hotels and other large buildings into interim shelters to save money and get people off the streets quickly.

Since the last audit in 2019, the average cost of housing projects in development increased from $507,000 per unit to nearly $559,000, the report said. Galperin cited two outlier projects that saw costs spike to nearly $750,000 per unit.

Most of the delays began before the coronavirus pandemic, he found.

A January count by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority reported that there were more than 66,400 homeless people in LA County, with the majority living within the city limits.

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office didn’t immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment on the city controller’s findings.

The homelessness crisis is visible in downtown Los Angeles, where hundreds of people live in makeshift shanties that line entire blocks in the notorious neighborhood known as Skid Row. Tents regularly pop up on the pavement outside City Hall, and encampments are increasingly found in suburban areas under freeway overpasses.