Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday threw his support behind an ambitious $2-billion plan to build housing for California’s mentally ill homeless population.
The governor’s action comes as cities from Los Angeles to San Francisco, have seen increases in homelessness in recent years, sparked in part by rising rents that have pushed poor people into shantytowns on city sidewalks and canyons.
Under the plan, the state would issue $2 billion in bonds, which would be repaid over 20 to 30 years with money provided under Proposition 63, the “millionaires’ tax” for mental health services that voters approved in 2004.
Proponents said money from the bond, 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% of whom have mental illness.
It would make the most significant boost in state funding for the homeless in years.
Democratic leaders, noting support from some Republicans, including Sen. Bob Huff (R-San Dimas), said the governor’s backing — released as part of his revised budget — is a tremendous boost.
“This a huge step forward to have the governor and the Legislature on the same page, recognizing that housing and homelesness is a big priority,” said former Senate president Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), who helped conceive the plan. “Homelessness knows no partisan lines.”
Los Angeles County has the most homeless without shelter in the nation, studies have found, and over the year, local officials have made tackling the problem a top priority.
One person counted in the homeless survey sleeps in an alley. Dozens of volunteers fanned out around neighborhoods in North Hollywood to conduct part of the 2016 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count.(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)
Jasmine Yancey, of West Hollywood, was one of dozens of volunteers in North Hollywood to conduct part of the 2016 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count.(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)
Benjamin Romero, 18, left and his brother Omar, 32, were among 41 volunteers who showed up at the Centro Maravilla Service Center in East Los Angeles on Tuesday night to count the area’s homeless.(Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Omar Romero, left, was drawn to the 2016 homeless census by a blast email to his work. He recruited his younger brother, Benjamin, a student at East Los Angeles College, to join him.(Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Volunteers Omar Romero, left, and his brother Benjamin, make a three-hour trek to count the homeless in East Los Angeles on Tuesday night.(Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
On the third and final day of the 2016 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, volunteer Derrick Chambers checks out an encampment in an open area in Lancaster.(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Andrew Aldama, John Piscitello, Frances Sharpe and Glanda Sherman search the beach in the early morning for homeless people in Pacific Palisades.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Benjamin Romero, 18, left, and his brother Omar, 32, survey neighborhoods near the 60 Freeway in East Los Angeles for homeless people as part of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s 2016 homeless census.(Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Volunteers drove and walked neighborhoods in Boyle Heights, Monterey Park and East Los Angeles on Tuesday night as part of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s 2016 homeless census.(Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Volunteer homeless counters gather Tuesday evening for a briefing in East Los Angeles. The volunteers broke up into teams in order to cover the most ground possible.(Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
About 40 volunteers in East Los Angeles on Tuesday night take part in a homeless census, an effort to get a count of the number of homeless in Los Angeles County.(Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Kenneth Ferguson Jr., 22, left, who is homeless, talks with Marlon Sibrian, center, and Luis Medina at Union Station as teams of volunteers survey homeless youth.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Brendan Tidwell, Marlon Sibrian and Javier Martinez walk through Union Station looking for homeless young people to survey.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Brendan Tidwell, left, team leader Luis Medina and Javier Martinez walk through Union Station looking for homeless young people to survey.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Brendan Tidwell, Marlon Sibrian, Javier Martinez and Luis Medina walk through Olvera Street looking for homeless young people.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Jeff Hearly, 22, left, who is homeless, talks with Marlon Sibrian, center, and Luis Medina near Olvera Street.(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
The city of Los Angeles has approved a $1.87-billion plan to boost 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.
Los Angeles County has set aside $150 million and is talking about creating a “millionaire’s tax” or some other funding source to help pay for more homeless services.
The state bond alone would not relieve the region’s homelessness crisis. L.A. County leaders estimated that would take 15,341 more units of so-called permanent supportive housing to do that.
But they said the bond would be a significant boost.
The governor, in his budget proposal, placed part of the blame for the problem on local land use restrictions, and called on elected leaders to facilitate affordable housing construction.
“Local land use decisions surrounding housing production have contributed to low inventories — even though demand has steadily increased,” his message said.
“No matter how much money we can put together, it’s going to be hard to solve the problem 100%,” she said. “If we were to address the whole problem, we would need more than that.”
Ruth Schwartz, a longtime homeless housing official and executive director of Shelter Partnership in Los Angeles, said advocates had been calling on the state for years to get involved in helping 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.