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California governor backs $2 billion housing-for-homeless plan

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS / JAN. 26

    This file photo shows tents from a homeless encampment line a street in downtown Los Angeles.

Gov. Jerry Brown Friday threw his support behind a $2 billion plan to build housing for California’s mentally ill homeless population.

The governor’s action comes as cities including Los Angeles and San Francisco have seen increases in homelessness as rising rents and a lack of shelter space push poor people into shantytowns on city sidewalks and in riverbeds and canyons.

Under the plan, the state would issue $2 billion in bonds. The money would be repaid over 20 to 30 years with funds provided under Proposition 63, the “millionaires tax” for mental health services that voters approved in 2004.

Proponents said money from the bonds, together with federal and local funding, would finance 10,000 to 14,000 new housing units for the state’s 116,000 homeless people, an estimated 30 percent of whom have mental illness.

The proposal faces legal and political hurdles. A two-thirds vote in the Legislature is needed for passage, requiring that the Democratic majority find some support from Republicans.

Democratic leaders have noted that Republicans including state Sen. Bob Huff already support the effort and that Brown’s backing is a big boost.

Republican Assemblyman Marc Steinorth said the plan “merits strong consideration,” but he also expressed concern.

“It is narrowly focused on a very small number of people,” he said in a statement. “Many middle-class families are struggling to afford their rent or mortgage. I believe we should include additional solutions that will help make housing affordable for all Californians.”

The bonds could mean less money for other mental health services, though exactly which programs might be affected is not clear.

Los Angeles County has the most homeless people without shelter in the nation, studies have found, and over the years, local officials have made the problem a top priority.

The city of Los Angeles has approved a $1.87 billion plan to step up homeless housing, but it’s unclear where the money would come from. Mayor Eric Garcetti wants to spend $138 million this year on general homeless services, but the city is still looking for how to cover half those costs.

“To fund this plan we will leverage every resource at our disposal — but cities alone cannot solve this crisis,” Garcetti said today.

Los Angeles County has set aside $150 million and is talking about creating a millionaires tax or some other funding source to help pay for more homeless services.

Ruth Schwartz, a longtime homeless-housing official and executive director of Shelter Partnership in Los Angeles, said advocates have been calling on the state for years to get involved in helping to ease the homeless problems.

Brown’s support of the measure represented a major shift, she said.

“This is just a huge pivot for the governor,” she said.

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©2016 Los Angeles Times

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  • Yeah, California, the state with absolutely NO money will find $2B from who knows where to take of the Useless, I mean Homeless. The 808 to follow.

    • California’s public retirement pension CalPERS is already $500 BILLION under water! YES, you read that correctly, five hundred billion and at risk of defaulting! These Democrat clowns keep throwing billions of dollars at helping illegals and the bums rather than help the very people that actually work and produce. This is why you should never allow a single nut-job political party to control a state and allow it to run everything into the ground. Hawaii is another Democratic state, our elected clowns too will spend billions on a rail from nowhere destined to nowhere and spend the rest on housing the bums rather than ship them on a cargo ship to the mainland. Just remember that if you don’t get these Democrat clowns out of office in the next election the circus clowns will milk you out of everything you got.

  • There is absolutely no sense in paying your fair share of taxes if a substantial portion of the money collected is intended in the long run for those not making a single contribution to society.

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