End Homelessness Now-LA (EHN-LA) is a broad based community campaign that promotes large-scale, permanent, supportive public housing as the solution to the homelessness catastrophe. As the housing crisis is now compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, EHN-LA’s demand that government-owned vacant or underused property be re-purposed into such housing is more urgent than ever.
Today, EHN-LA is alarmed that government officials at all levels are focusing most of their efforts on temporary shelters and short-term leases of hotel and motel rooms. Putting hundreds of cots together in recreation centers and other large rooms only invites further spread of the disease. Dumping people out of temporary rooms after the worst of the crisis passes would be obscenely cruel. Governments should purchase or otherwise take over hotels and motels for permanent public housing.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brutally revealed that a system based on every business out to make the highest possible profit is categorically incapable of meeting human needs.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brutally revealed that a system based on every business out to make the highest possible profit is categorically incapable of meeting human needs. Just as we need a universal, public healthcare system run by its workers, we need permanent housing that exists outside of the chaos of the private market. Profits should not be the motive force for who’s housed and who isn’t. According to EHN-LA member Claudia Brick:
“The City should absolutely be its own developer–the same as they do when they build a firehouse or a community center. Public money must be spent on public projects and run by public employees, including those with lived experience who know what it takes to become successfully rehoused. Public ownership and management could get the job done better, faster, and at a much lower cost.”
Over three years ago, Los Angeles voters passed Proposition HHH to tax themselves $1.2 billion to build 10,000 apartments. The city is squandering that money to enrich private developers and landlords who now may produce fewer than 6,000 units costing over $500,000 each. Worse yet, this housing is not permanent. Its private owners only have to agree to provide the very-low-rent housing for 55 years, after which they can charge whatever they want. We are now seeing thousands of apartments built in the 1980s with 30 year covenants revert to market rate rent and displace their elderly and low income renters.
Therefore, EHN-LA calls on city, county, state, and federal governments to immediately:
- Open and retrofit all of their empty and underused buildings for permanent public housing where people can protect themselves in separate spaces now and in the future.
- Quickly build permanent supportive public housing on large vacant lots, using modular and other innovative construction that costs only 20% of what the city is spending with the HHH funds. Instead of finishing a giant stadium that may not host sports events for years, construction should be redirected to housing.
- Turn parking lots and other vacant space into trailer parks with utility hookups where trailers, RVs, and even cars that are being lived in can gather in safe areas with centralized services. Then, keep those trailer parks open for permanent low-cost housing. Zerita Jones, EHN-LA and LA Tenants Union organizer, points out that such parks could provide decent homes costing less than $60,000.
- Eliminate all zoning and planning barriers to immediate implementation of the above demands. The health and housing emergency demands immediate action.
EHN-LA's the petition in support of these proposals is here.
EHN-LA has searched an entire database of the city’s posted surplus and underused properties and driven endless miles looking for appropriate sites for housing.
The old County General Hospital at 1200 State Street, mostly vacant since 2008, could house close to 1,000 people. The county is looking into it, but no housing has materialized.
The Veterans Administration campus in west LA has several large buildings previously used for housing and offices that could house hundreds. They also have expansive green space where tents and vehicles could safely camp.
There are vacant libraries and fire houses, of 4,400 to 12,000 square feet, that are located throughout the city. Though they are small, re-purposing plans could be replicable, thereby saving time and money in moving forward.
Several large vacant lots could be used for modular and other innovative housing at 20% of what the city is paying for the HHH projects. One 121,000 square foot lot at 60th and S. Western could house hundreds. Larger lots at Wall and Slauson (7 acres), Clovis Ave, south of E 108th St (434,409 square feet), and 7600 Tyrone Ave, Van Nuys (753,136 square feet) could house thousands.
In 2014, the Port of Los Angeles identified 390 acres of vacant property potentially available for lease. These properties should also be considered for both emergency and long-term public housing.
In many other countries, large scale public housing prevents homelessness. Los Angeles has much to learn from them and should follow their lead.
Random Length News
Val Carlson is a retired civil rights attorney and member of the National Lawyers Guild and End Homelessness Now-LA.