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Supervisors support city homeless bonds

LOS ANGELES — County supervisors went on record Sept. 6 in favor of a city of Los Angeles bond measure that would generate $1.2 billion to fund the construction of affordable housing, including permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless.

The Board of Supervisors’ vote in support of Proposition H was 3-0, with Mike Antonovich and Don Knabe abstaining.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas recommended backing the November ballot measure, which he said would “make a significant dent in homelessness.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called the proposition “HHH, which I say stands for homeless, housing and hope.”

Garcetti pointed to the success of concentrated efforts by county and city leaders to house homeless veterans.

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s 2016 count found that while homelessness had increased nearly 6 percent overall since 2015, the number of veterans living on the street was down 44 percent countywide.

The mayor had initially set a 2015 deadline for finding homes for all homeless vets and said the city was 1,200 to 1,500 units away from “declaring victory,” a milestone he thought would be hit next year.

However, more non-veterans are living in tents on the street, under freeway overpasses and on hillsides.

From “every corner of this city, you can see homeless people,” Garcetti told the supervisors.

City and county leaders have both been working to raise funds to combat homelessness, with Ridley-Thomas leading a push for Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency related to the issue.

Brown has said such a declaration would be inappropriate, though the Legislature has approved $2 billion for the construction of permanent supportive housing statewide.

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority has estimated that 15,000 supportive units are needed to house the “unsheltered homeless,” while the California Housing Partnership calculates a 500,000-unit deficit in affordable housing countywide.

Los Angeles City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson said Proposition H would create a “qualitative shift” in homelessness and triple the city’s capacity to build new units.

Ridley-Thomas said construction was just part of the story.

“Units without services is a half loaf at best,” he said.

The county’s chief executive officer and the homeless authority estimate that another $450 million will be needed annually to pay for homeless supportive services like mental health care and substance abuse programs.

The board has considered a number of solutions, including a millionaire’s tax, a quarter-cent sales tax and a tax on marijuana, but could not agree on an alternative to put before voters this November.

The Homelessness Reduction and Prevention, Housing and Facilities General Obligation Bond Proposition requires the support of two-thirds of voters to pass.