Homelessness in the Los Angeles Region, California— Advisory Services Panel

Date: December 10 – 15, 2017

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Sponsor: ULI Foundation

Subject Area: Housing Affordability and Homelessness

Panel Co-Chairs: Leigh Ferguson, Downtown Development District of New Orleans, New Orleans, LA and  Rafael Cestero, Community Preservation Corporation, New York, New York

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Background and Panel Assignment

One of every ten homeless individuals in the United States lives in Los Angeles County, and about two-thirds of those individuals are residents of the city of Los Angeles. Homelessness has surged almost everywhere in the region over the past several years. Today, roughly three in four of the nearly 58,000 homeless people in the Los Angeles region are unsheltered—living on the streets, in cars, in tents, and in other makeshift structures, often in clustered encampments.

At the suggestion of several ULI member leaders active in Los Angeles, and with the advice and guidance of the University of Southern California Lusk Center for Real Estate, the ULI Foundation sponsored a ULI Advisory Services panel to make recommendations for addressing the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles. ULI staff reached out to local officials in both the city and county of Los Angeles and local nonprofit organizations working on the issue to ensure that the ULI panel would be seen as adding to the many efforts already underway, including planning for deploying a total of $5 billion of voter-approved bond proceeds dedicated to addressing homelessness over the next several years.

The Panel Assignment

The panel’s assignment was to address several interrelated issues in the principal areas of ULI’s mission of leadership in land use.

Under leadership:

  • How can the substantial financial and human resources dedicated to the homelessness challenge in Los Angeles be most effectively coordinated, leveraged, and deployed?
  • Do public/private organizational structures exist that could be created or enhanced to support the delivery of resources, perhaps based on successful Los Angeles efforts on other big issues in the past, such as the 1984 Olympics?
  • In what areas can housing developers and neighborhood leaders find common ground to create new land use plans, allowing some of the necessary units to be built in areas where they typically have been blocked?
  • How and where do the city and region begin to provide supportive housing and affordable housing at a large scale when communities object to their placement?

Under land use:

  • How should the city and county assess the optimal housing uses (e.g., shelters, supportive housing, permanent affordable housing), building types, development densities, and service-delivery models for meeting the specific homelessness needs of different neighborhoods? Of most immediate importance perhaps is the provision of shelters:
    • Should shelters be small and focused on distinct populations throughout the city?
    • Is it more expedient to find large existing buildings such as industrial sites where larger-scale shelters can serve multiple populations and services?
  • Do opportunities exist to employ “out-of-the-box” solutions to deliver significant numbers of homeless housing units more quickly and at lower costs through more flexible zoning, creative use of existing structures, and dignified interim forms of shelter, among other techniques?
  • What specific steps can be taken to ensure that homelessness does not become overly concentrated in specific neighborhoods?

Summary of Recommendations

The panel’s key recommendations, organized into three broad categories, are as follows:

Recommendation 1: House the Unhoused

  • Use existing resources effectively.
  • Establish 60 community housing solution centers—on a geographically balanced basis.
  • Reclaim public spaces.
  • Invest in permanent supportive housing.

Recommendation 2: Increase the Overall Housing Supply

  • Streamline approvals and incentivize development.
  • Encourage innovation in housing design and development.
  • Build support for density.

Recommendation 3: Reimagine Leadership and Accountability

  • Build the political will.
  • Strengthen administration and reporting.
  • Embrace a collective community responsibility.

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