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First Measure HHH housing project opens

SOUTH LOS ANGELES — The opening of the first housing project financed by Measure HHH was celebrated Jan. 6 by local officials and developers as the first steps to provide housing units and supportive services to alleviate the homelessness crisis.  

“Today, we are finally beginning to deliver on the housing mandate the voters approved through Measure HHH in 2016,” City Council President Nury Martinez said. “Their support has allowed the city to approve more homeless housing in the last several years than in the previous 30 years. While we welcome the arrival of the first of thousands of more units to come, we know even more is required of us to address homelessness and we must act urgently and decisively.”

The housing complex at 88th Street and Vermont Avenue spent about $9.6 million from the $1.2 billion available Measure HHH to complete the project.

The development was spearheaded by Women Organizing Resources, Knowledge and Services (WORKS) and Community Build.

“88th and Vermont has been decades in the making, which, along with other funding, was finally made possible because of HHH dollars,” said Channa Grace, president and chief executive officer of WORKS.

“WORKS, and our co-development partner, Community Build, are delighted that we are providing permanent supportive housing, housing for transition-aged youth, and housing for families with very low incomes along with a 9,500-square foot youth and family center — all less than a block from rapid transit. We are excited to provide what we believe is a truly holistic offering to a community that has often been overlooked and underserved.”

The housing features 46 permanent housing units for transition youth between 18 and 25, veterans and households with special needs experiencing chronic homelessness. It also has 14 units for very low-income families and individuals and two manager units.

Rents at the development range from $473 per month for a studio unit to $703 per month for a three-bedroom apartment. Rent subsidies for tenants will be provided by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool program and the Housing Authority of the city of Los Angeles, through project-based Section 8 vouchers.

The supportive aspect of the housing project includes a youth and family support center that will include gang reduction and youth development programs as well as job training and academic resources.

“This decade is already off to a great start,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a Facebook post following the ribbon cutting. “This is the first of many HHH-funded projects set to welcome families inside, and today is proof that we are moving from renderings to reality and delivering the high-quality, permanent supportive units that unhoused Angelenos urgently need and deserve.

“We’ll see probably one of these [HHH projects] open every couple weeks in Los Angeles in 2020, and that pace will continue to accelerate in 2021,” Garcetti said. “So let’s make this a year of action, let’s make this a decade of ending homelessness in Los Angeles on our streets, and congratulations to the voters and everybody who made this possible.”

Los Angeles plans to build more than 10,000 units for homeless Angelenos in the next six years. Of the 118 housing projects that have been approved for funding, 20 are currently under construction and another 30 are expected to break ground this year. Another 64 supportive housing units financed with other resources also completed construction this month, the mayor’s office said.

Many Angelenos, however, believe city and county efforts to reduce the homelessness crisis are not proactive enough.

An October audit recommended that Measure HHH money should be spent on shelters instead.

The audit concluded that more than 1,000 units of housing approved through Proposition HHH could top $600,000 apiece, in many cases exceeding the median sale price of a condominium in the city or a single-family home in Los Angeles County.

City Controller Ron Galperin suggested that projects need to reevaluate their budgets and can be cut to use less of the homeless housing bond. Any savings should then be shifted to fund shelters, bridge housing, hygiene centers and other services to address more immediate needs of the population.

“We’re not saying we should be ashamed of HHH,” Galperin said through a spokesman. “We’re saying we have a program that is not keeping pace with the crisis at hand. We need to figure out what changes can be made so we can better fulfill the intention voters had when they approved this proposition.”

City News Service also contributed to this story.