Affordable Housing Reimagined

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SCI-Arc students turning their architectural sketches into reality

With hard hats and hammers, dozens of volunteers gathered in south Los Angeles Thursday to kick off construction on a home that’s not only inexpensive but innovative.

“This is the result of an unprecedented collaboration among the public, private, philanthropic and academic sectors,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “Together, we are easing Los Angeles County’s homeless crisis and creating a prototype for affordable housing in the future.”

IMG_0113Once completed in October, the 1,150-sq. ft. home will include three bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms, energy-efficient heating, low-flow plumbing, insulation with recycled materials, and a drought-tolerant yard.

The home sits on a 4,410-square foot lot at 1232 W. 101st Street in Athens donated by Los Angeles County to Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles.

Habitat, a nonprofit organization championed by former President Jimmy Carter, builds and renovates houses, often with volunteer labor, and arranges reasonable mortgages for low-income individuals and families.

To design the home in Athens, Habitat tapped the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), whose students developed blueprints during the fall 2014 semester, secured permits during the spring 2015 semester, and are participating in the construction phase this summer.

Habitat also partnered with General Motors Foundation and Bernards Builders and Management Services for volunteer labor and donated furniture. Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ office donated $95,000 toward the project, which also received funding from Habitat, SCI-Arc, and other donors.

“This project has given us the opportunity to collaborate with new and longtime partners on driving forward the standards for sustainable and cost-effective housing,” Habitat LA President and CEO Erin Rank said. “Innovation is key in building a greater Los Angeles, one project and neighborhood at a time.”

SCI-Arc Director Eric Owen Moss said the cost-effective single family home is a new area of interest for SCI-Arc. “There have been a number of such efforts over the years, typically skewed in the low cost rather than the imaginative design direction,” he said. “It’s time SCI-Arc turned its attention to the solution for both.”

IMG_0108The design chosen for the home was dubbed IVRV, short for Inverse Reverse, because it blurred the relationship between indoor and outdoor areas.

Habitat will sell the home for no more than $419,000, an amount set by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Habitat will work through its established home ownership program to find a veteran homeowner. Five potential buyers are already in the queue.

More projects are in the works. “We look forward to future groundbreakings on the dozen other properties in the Second District that have been donated to Habitat for Humanity for high quality affordable housing,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas.


Finding Home and Health in South LA

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John Flores suffered from mental health issues all his life, and often felt alone and isolated from his family. After spending several years in prison, he was released… only to become homeless. But he turned his life around after finding the South Los Angeles Recuperative Care Center in East Rancho Dominguez,  where a team of nurses and case managers took care of him and helped him find affordable housing as well as mental health services.

18682407262_85a83523b6_z (1)“When I got out, I fell into homelessness and what comes with it,” Flores said. “Not only has this center been a place to call home, but the staff nursed me back from my injuries.”

“These are the people who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself,” he added.

The center is the result of an innovative partnership between Lamp Community, a homeless service organization, and the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services’ ground-breaking Housing for Health Division, which seeks to help homeless patients find both permanent housing and the healthcare they need.

Renovated by the Community Development Commission with funding support of $1.8 million from Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the center offers a healing environment for homeless people to recuperate after they are discharged from a hospital, which breaks the cycle of costly hospital stays, frees up hospital beds for patients in critical needand leads to healthier outcomes for homeless patients.

18682414012_04c95d3dbc_z (1)“By providing these much needed services, homeless individuals will be able to receive the care they need,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “It is essential that all residents of our county, regardless of whether they are homeless, receive these medical and supportive services to help them find a new path. Lamp Community is doing tremendous work in helping to bring humane and sustainable medical care for all people.”

The center’s opening comes on the heels of a recent report by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority that found a 12 percent increase in homelessness over the past two years across Los Angeles County, where more than 44,000 people are homeless on any given night.

The South Los Angeles Recuperative Care Center is the first of many that will soon be available to serve homeless patients suffering from health issues. In the fall, a new recuperative care center will open at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Campus to bring housing options for homeless individuals being discharged from the hospital with no place to go.

Mr. Flores told an audience during a recent dedication ceremony that his stay at the center was transformative. “This was the first time I felt love in 20 years,” he said. “Your efforts here at Lamp are not wasted.”

LA County Expands Safety Net for the Homeless

Beggar falling asleep on the street

The Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to widen Los Angeles County’s safety net for the homeless, deploying teams to help particularly vulnerable populations find permanent supportive housing.

“If we are to end homelessness, we must scale up our response to fit the overwhelming need,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

His motion, co-sponsored by Supervisor Hilda Solis, follows the recent release of the 2015 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, which showed a 12 percent increase in homelessness countywide since 2013.

Under the plan approved Tuesday, the county would create seven multi-disciplinary integrated teams (MITs) of medical and mental health professionals to provide “street- and shelter-based intensive engagement and support” for homeless single adults with severe mental illness who may also have substance abuse issues.

Homeless single adults tend to be frequent users of the county’s public hospital emergency rooms, and often get tangled up in the criminal justice system.

In their motion, Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Solis called for identifying funding that could be used to add another team to Skid Row, and to proportionally augment staffing for MITs in South LA, the South Bay and the San Fernando Valley. A report is expected in 60 days.

“It is imperative that resources are targeted to the areas with the greatest geographic burden and need, as demonstrated by the latest homeless count,” Supervisor-Ridley Thomas said.

During the homeless count, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and volunteers found 41,174 homeless people in Greater Los Angeles. When added to homeless counts in Glendale, Pasadena and Long Beach, Los Angeles County has an estimated 44,359 homeless people on any given night. About two-thirds of homeless persons were “unsheltered” and stayed in places not intended for human habitation, such as vehicles, parks, sidewalks and abandoned buildings.

The “Metro” Los Angeles area accounted for 27.7 percent of homeless single adults countywide, with a concentration in Skid Row.  Next in line were South LA, 16.2 percent; the South Bay, 12.1 percent; and the San Fernando Valley, 11.7 percent.

Homeless Count (1)

 

 

Willowbrook to Get New Library and Senior Housing

Wilmington renderingMore than 100 units of affordable housing for seniors, an 8,000 square foot library, and an employment center will soon replace a blighted lot on the corner of 118th Street and Wilmington Avenue in Willowbrook.

More than $9 million in county funds have been allocated to the project, which will be developed by Thomas Safran and Associates and the Community Development Commission. Since the property is located one block from the new Martin Luther King Medical Campus, 22 units will be reserved for residents with medical needs.

“This development is the first of its kind in Los Angeles County,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who initiated the project. “We have never built senior housing above a county library and it will serve as an educational anchor and gathering place for the community.”

Willowbrook, a farming area settled in the 1800s, derived its name from the willow trees and rambling brook that decorated its landscape. As its population grew, the neighborhood became known for its homes with deep lots and a community of residents determined to protect it from the encroaching development.

This development is part of a broader, $1 billion investment in the area that includes the MLK Medical Campus, redevelopment of the Rosa Parks Metro station, improved streetscapes, lighting, landscaping, a community garden and other community improvements.

The MLK Medical Campus, which includes a new Outpatient Center, a Psychiatric Urgent Care Center and a Center for Public Health, will be inaugurating a brand new hospital in August.

“With the expansion and development of the new MLK Medical Campus, the tightknit community of Willowbrook will have yet another asset,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “This is a legacy that will live on for generations to come.”

Bringing Economic Development to the Crenshaw/LAX Rail Line

Screen-Shot-2014-10-09-at-10.53.06-AMWith the Crenshaw-LAX rail line projected to serve thousands of commuters by 2019, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has proposed creating affordable housing, commercial and residential developments on county-owned real estate along major public transportation lines.

His motion, unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors, recommended making better use of a 1.9-acre parcel of land on Exposition Boulevard in Los Angeles at the intersection of the Crenshaw/LAX and Expo Lines, as well as a 40,000-sq. ft. property on Redondo Boulevard in Inglewood which is adjacent to the Crenshaw/LAX line.

“With its prime location adjacent to the Crenshaw/LAX Fairview Heights station, the County should explore opportunities for making the property available for private development that would cater to commuters on the rail line,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “The use of county-owned properties will generate additional revenues that could potentially offset the costs of relocation.”

The county’s 40-year-old Exposition Boulevard property, which houses a Probation Department field office is outdated and needs substantial renovation. By relocating the Probation staff to another County building, the Exposition Boulevard property would be available for private developers to build affordable housing, live/work housing, retail stores, restaurants, creative office space and other commercial and residential developments that would cater to the needs of commuters on the Crenshaw/LAX rail line.

This proposal complements another motion set to go before the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors this month to develop a 2.1-acre parcel of land at Exposition and Crenshaw Boulevard owned by Metro.

Combined, the two motions represent a significant change in the way the county can use its assets to address economic development and housing needs.  Together, the Los Angeles County and Metro properties bring up to 500,000 square feet of potential new development into the marketplace.

The $2-billion Crenshaw/LAX Rail Line is funded through Measure R, a half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2008.

The 8.5-mile train route would run through the historic Crenshaw Corridor, known as the epicenter of African-American culture in Los Angeles. It is projected to have a daily ridership of 13,000 to 16,000 once completed in 2019.

Plans are already in place to build a major retail center with a Target store, a new Kaiser medical facility, and a revitalized Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza next to the rail line.