Housing In Brief: L.A.’s Rise In Homelessness Slowed Due To Federal Funds

Also, residents of Oakland’s largest homeless encampment face eviction.

Tents set up along a freeway in Los Angeles

(Photo by Laurie Avocado / CC BY 2.0)

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LA’s Rise In Homelessness Would Have Been Worse Without Pandemic Aid

Los Angeles County’s homeless population jumped 4.1% since 2020. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) released this year’s count of unhoused L.A. County residents and found there were 69,144 people experiencing homelessnes during a three-day span in February. That includes people living in shelters, on the street and people living in their cars. 41,890 of those people were experiencing homelessness within the city of L.A., a 1.7% increase from 2020.

Recent trends suggest it was nearly far worse. Between 2018 and 2020, homelessness increased 26% in L.A. County and 32% in the city of L.A, LAHSA says.

Officials attribute the slower rise in homelessness to federal eviction prevention funds as well as eviction moratoria at the city, state and federal level. “If there’s one thing you take away from these results, I want you to see how policy and investments matter,” Molly Rysman, co-executive director of LAHSA, said in a press release.

Yet those eviction protections have elapsed and federal relief funds are tapped out, suggesting the numbers will again jump by double digits. Officials said there was also a 17% increase in tents and encampments, according to the Guardian, which could account for the perception among Los Angeles residents that the increase was higher. The city has aggressively responded to complaints of encampments from residents with anti-camping bans and numerous encampment sweeps.

Sweeps Go Forward At Oakland Homeless Encampment

The California Department of Transportation began removing people from Oakland’s largest homeless encampment last week, according to KQED. The Wood Street encampment consists of about 200 residents and stretches for 15 city blocks, running through land owned by Caltrans, the city of Oakland and other entities, KQED reports.

In July, encampment residents represented by the East Bay Community Law Center filed a lawsuit to prevent the encampment’s dismantling – but a federal judge ruled last month it could continue, citing safety concerns. Caltrans says there have been 240 fires at the encampment since March 2020. Attorneys with East Bay Community Law Center said the city was partly responsible for these fires because it had not facilitated basic trash pickup at the encampment, according to the East Bay Times. The removals were carried out by the California Highway Patrol and Oakland Police, and two residents were arrested on the first day of action, according to NBC News. Caltrans said 75 residents of the encampment accepted placements in shelters, Tuff Shed-branded tiny homes or sanctioned RV communities.

California Enforcing ADU Laws Despite Local NIMBYism

When California passed a landmark state law allowing single family lots to be split into duplexes, outraged homeowners pushed for prohibitive requirements at the local level. Cal Matters reported in April that many of these ordinances violated the new state law, but that the state was too understaffed to deal with such violations. The state has since ramped up enforcement, New York Times reports, including by sending letters to local officials

The state is also moving forward with some measures that could prove to be more divisive among tenant advocates, including a review of local development processes with an eye toward eliminating red tape holding up new housing, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. That would likely mean limiting community control over new housing developments - a power that has been weaponized by NIMBYs opposed to affordable housing. But community input has also been utilized by low-income tenants with genuine concerns about displacement that accompany market-rate housing, as research in the Bay Area has shown.

This article is part of Backyard, a newsletter exploring scalable solutions to make housing fairer, more affordable and more environmentally sustainable. Subscribe to our weekly Backyard newsletter.

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Roshan Abraham is Next City's housing correspondent and a former Equitable Cities fellow. He is based in Queens. Follow him on Twitter at @roshantone.

Tags: los angeleshomelessnesscaliforniaoaklandaccessory dwelling units

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