Los Angeles Explores a “Right to Housing”
As Los Angeles continues to struggle to manage its homelessness crisis, the L.A. City Council is directing city agencies to establish a legal framework to provide a “Right to Housing” to all who live in the city, according to a press release from City Council Member Mark Ridley-Thomas, who sponsored the motion. The motion directs the city’s departments to create a report “with recommendations to envision, develop, and implement a legislative, budgetary, and policy framework that would require the government to provide a robust and responsive spectrum of solutions to prevent and address homelessness,” according to the release.
“A Right to Housing means creating a housing safety net that obligates the government to not only aid Angelenos off the streets and into interim and permanent housing, but also prevent homelessness in the first place,” Councilmember Ridley-Thomas said, according to the release. “Just like our rights to clean air, our right to vote, and our right to receive an education — it should be mandatory for LA City to provide a Right to Housing to its residents.”
Existing efforts help an average of 207 people exit homeleness in L.A. County every day, according to the release, but at the same time, another 227 people become homeless every day. Los Angeles recently expanded its Project Roomkey to help people house people experiencing homelessness in area hotel rooms. But Ridley-Thomas says the city needs a more fundamental overhaul of how it addresses housing.
“If housing is to be acknowledged as a human right, it is paramount that all public jurisdictions take progressive steps to adopt legislative, administrative, judicial and budgetary measures to advance the Right to Housing for all,” he said in the motion. “A Right to Housing framework would seek to redress structural disparities that disproportionately affect Black people and other historically-oppressed peoples.”
Denver’s Transit Agency Wants to Build More Affordable Housing
Denver’s Regional Transportation District approved a new policy last month designed to produce more affordable housing on property that the District owns near its railway lines, according to a report on Colorado Public Radio. The Equitable Transit-Oriented Development Policy includes five provisions meant to guide the agency’s development of rail-adjacent property, according to a staff memo. Among them is “an aspirational and nonbinding goal” that 35 percent of the units built will be affordable for low-income households.
The policy is meant to lower costs for housing development by changing the rules about how much parking developers need to include in new projects. Those rules currently require developers to replace every parking space in a park-and-ride lot when they erect new apartment buildings there, according to the memo. Those spaces can cost $25,000 apiece in garage-construction costs, according to the memo, and “reduce livable square footage from the larger development.” The new policy allows the Regional Transit District to set parking requirements based on projections of future use, rather than replacement of existing capacity.
“I think fundamentally it’s a good land use policy to build with greater density rather than sprawl,” Scott Pederson, a real estate developer based in Boulder, told Colorado Public Radio.
The City of Chicago is also in the process of adopting an Equitable Transit Oriented Development plan, as Next City has reported.
Nonprofit Makes Space for Homeless LGBTQ Youth in Washington, D.C.
A nonprofit group in Washington, D.C., is planning to open an extended transitional housing complex for LGBTQ young people experiencing homelessness, Greater Greater Washington reports. The group, called Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders (SMYAL), currently operates two other facilities, housing 26 young people for up to two years each, according to the report. The new program will house people between the ages of 19 and 24 for up to six years, the report says.
“For most who come into our programs, they can build a foundation in two years,” Jorge Membreño, SMYAL’s director of clinical services, told GGW. “For others, it takes a lot more of a fight to get them to get there … they just need an opportunity to grow with a longer timespan.”
The program will provide mental health services, life skills, and job training “in a trauma-informed, identity-affirming environment,” the report says. It targets young people who have become estranged from their families because of their identities, according to the report. More than 40 percent of unhoused young people in the District identify as LGBTQ, the report says. Recently, the Department of Housing and Urban Development implemented an executive order signed by President Joe Biden banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
This article is part of Backyard, a newsletter exploring scalable solutions to make housing fairer, more affordable and more environmentally sustainable. Subscribe to our twice-weekly Backyard newsletter.
Jared Brey is Next City's housing correspondent, based in Philadelphia. He is a former staff writer at Philadelphia magazine and PlanPhilly, and his work has appeared in Columbia Journalism Review, Landscape Architecture Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, Philadelphia Weekly, and other publications.