LA County & City Team Up Against Homelessness

Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas at the grand opening ceremony for Silver Star Apartments in the Crenshaw area. All photos by David Franco/Board of Supervisors.

Los Angeles county and city officials have reached a key milestone in their partnership to create 10,000 units of permanent supportive housing over the next decade.

Under a newly signed memorandum of understanding with the county, Los Angeles becomes the first city in the region to formally join forces on a framework to increase permanent supportive housing — a proven approach that combines housing subsidies with essential services and healthcare to help chronically homeless individuals and families stay housed.

Los Angeles County and City officials sign a memorandum of agreement to collaborate in the fight against homelessness.

Under the agreement, the County will provide intensive case management and health services to residents of permanent supportive housing units to be built in the city of Los Angeles. Discussions are underway to develop similar agreements with cities throughout the county.

“We are not just building housing, we are rebuilding lives,” said Board of Supervisors Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas. “This unprecedented agreement will ensure that critical Measure H-funded services from the county will be swiftly provided to help people thrive in the thousands of units that will be constructed by the city under Proposition HHH.”

“The fight to end homelessness belongs to everybody in Los Angeles,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti. “We’re standing together at all levels of government to get people the shelter and services they need more quickly and efficiently than ever before.”

The agreement was celebrated during the grand opening ceremony for the Silver Star Apartments — a 49-unit supportive housing community in the Crenshaw area for homeless veterans with disabilities. Built and operated with both public and private funding, the apartments represent the kind of collaborative approach for permanent supportive housing envisioned by the newly signed memorandum of understanding.

“I thank the voters of Los Angeles for stepping up and supporting Measure H and Proposition HHH and joining in the fight to end homelessness for those who are most vulnerable,” said Dora Leong Gallo, chief executive officer of A Community of Friends, which developed Silver Star Apartments. “Everyone deserves to have a home and be treated with respect.”

Ribbon-cutting ceremony to formally open Silver Star Apartments, a 49-unit permanent supportive housing complex for veterans with disabilities who had experienced homelessness.

Taxing Our Tolerance
For An Affordable Housing Crisis

Op-Ed

By Mark Ridley-Thomas

There is no piece of legislation that weighs more heavily on Americans’ purse strings than the Republican tax reform proposal currently making its way through Congress.

While few can argue that our current tax code is anything short of byzantine, many of the provisions being considered by the Senate and House of Representatives would have a devastating impact on federal, state and local governments’ ability to provide vital services.

Repealing exclusions for adoption assistance programs, eliminating tax deductions for student loans and medical expenses, changing credits for producing electricity from renewable energy projects – these are just a few of the deeply troubling proposals projected to deepen the federal deficit.

The Senate’s bill creates a gap of $2.4 trillion over the next decade. The House of Representatives’ bill more than doubles that, to $5.9 trillion.

There are profound challenges in trying to create synergy among states with vastly different economic realities – most notably in their real estate markets. Much of the debate has centered on potential reductions to the mortgage interest deduction program, which is particularly alarming to individuals in states like California and New York, which abound with high-priced real estate. But there are other features in the House’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act or HR 1 that dramatically threaten the housing market, and we should all pay attention.

The lure of lower tax brackets for all comes at a steep price: predictably worsening our affordable housing crisis. What about the word crisis doesn’t Donald Trump understand?

In California, financial support for affordable housing already suffered a huge setback in 2013 when redevelopment agencies – which were required to dedicate 20 percent of their tax increment to affordable housing – were dissolved.

Now, HR 1 proposes to eliminate multifamily housing bonds critical to the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program on which 40 percent of all housing developments nationwide rely for financing. In California, more than 99 percent of the affordable units built over the past 30 years have relied on tax credits, including nearly 20,000 last year alone. The elimination of this program would cost California $2.2 billion in federally catalyzed investments annually.

Given that Los Angeles County has a projected shortage of more than half a million affordable units, we can’t afford to lose this tool.

The proposed lowering of the corporate tax rate will also have deep implications for the tax credit market. Corporate investors buy tax credits to lower their annual federal tax bill for 10 years. If a corporation already has a lower tax bill, they would not have the same incentive to pay as much for tax credits, driving down their value.

But it’s not just affordable housing development that is threatened. HR 1 also proposes getting rid of the mortgage credit certificate program, which assists first-time homebuyers by providing federal tax credits on up to 20 percent of the annual interest paid on mortgage loans.

Without these programs, the search for an affordable home becomes even more out of reach for millions of Americans who live in a state of housing insecurity every day, whether already homeless or on the verge of being unable to afford rising rent.

Perhaps more than at any other time in our history, we have a president who has shown indifference to the economic inequalities that plague this nation. Taking away our most effective resources for facilitating the type of housing that is critical to creating diverse and inclusive communities will only exacerbate disparity and deepen division.

Incentivizing – not dismantling – the development of affordable housing should be front and center as Congress considers tax reform legislation. Indeed, this will help stabilize families and make our communities, from New York to California, stronger.

Sweeping Advances to Keep Youth
Out of the Justice System

In a historic move, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to adopt a roadmap for diverting thousands of youth from the juvenile and criminal justice systems, and for connecting them to a comprehensive array of supportive services – education, employment, housing, healthcare and more – to help them thrive.

Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas. Photo by Diandra Jay, Board of Supervisors

“Giving youth access to supportive services as an alternative to arrest and incarceration is both morally imperative and fiscally responsible,” said Board Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who authored the motion. “We need to manage our resources smartly, and be more humane and less militaristic in dealing with young people so they can lead better lives and be an asset to their communities.”

“The best juvenile system is one that keeps kids out of it in the first place,” added the motion’s coauthor, Supervisor Janice Hahn. “With the action we are taking today, our County departments are going to better work together to keep children out of court and in school.”

Dr. Robert Ross, President and CEO of The California Endowment, a nonprofit that works extensively with youth in the juvenile justice system, expressed “enthusiastic support” for the motion. He said, “We know that punishment doesn’t work when it comes to helping young people who are struggling, as health conditions – many rooted in childhood trauma – are often at the root of the behavior that leads them to the justice system in the first place.”

The Board voted to accept the recommendations and strategies of A Roadmap for Advancing Youth Diversion in Los Angeles County developed by its Countywide Criminal Justice Coordination Committee. It also called for creating a Youth Diversion and Development division within the Office of Diversion and Reentry (ODR).

“Since its creation two years ago, the ODR has successfully diverted more than 1,300 adults from the County’s jails,” noted Judge Peter Espinoza (Ret.), director of the ODR. “What has been missing from this work has been a dedicated effort to keep young people out of the justice system. By launching this youth diversion and development work at ODR, the County is poised to offer a continuum of supportive services to the entire community and further reduce arrests and incarceration.”

Board Chairman Ridley-Thomas underscored the achievement by adding, “By launching this work, Los Angeles County can and will lead the nation in promoting youth wellbeing, addressing racial disparities, and embracing cost-effective approaches.”

L-R: Office of Child Protection Director, Judge Michael Nash (Ret.); Office of Diversion and Reentry Director, Judge Peter Espinoza (Ret.); The California Endowment President and CEO Dr. Robert Ross; and LA County Assistant CEO Fesia Davenport, testifying in support of the  motion. Photo by Martin Zamora/Board of Supervisors

National Honor for LA County
Plan to Fight Homelessness

L-R: LA County Homeless Initiative Director Phil Ansell, CEO Sachi Hamai and Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas, joined by National Alliance to End Homelessness President and CEO Nan Roman and the event emcee, PBS News Hour anchor Judy Woodruff. All photos by Larry Levin.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness honored Los Angeles County at its 2017 Innovation and Excellence Awards in Washington D.C.

The Alliance praised the County’s Homeless Initiative and Measure H, which over the next five years is expected to end homelessness for about 45,000 individuals and families, and prevent homelessness for 30,000 more.

“Ending homelessness in any community demands a relentless focus on innovation and pursuit of excellence,” Alliance President and CEO Nan Roman said. “This year’s awardees demonstrate the power and potential to create lasting change and put us on the road to ending homelessness.”

Board of Supervisors Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas accepted the award on behalf of the County, accompanied by County Chief Executive Officer Sachi Hamai, and Homeless Initiative Director Phil Ansell.

“The County is honored to be recognized nationally for developing the Homeless Initiative and providing an ongoing source of revenue through Measure H that will put us on a path to prevent and end homelessness,” Chairman Ridley-Thomas said. “We have much to do, but thanks to the voters and support from a broad-based coalition of community partners, we’re confident we can finally address this humanitarian crisis head on with the resources needed to effect real change.”

The Alliance said the Homeless Initiative collected broad-based community input on how to focus the County’s efforts to end homelessness. The Board, acting on motions principally authored by Chairman Ridley-Thomas, then declared a state of emergency on homelessness and adopted an ordinance to authorize a quarter-cent countywide special sales tax. The ballot measure, known as Measure H, passed with support from almost 70 percent of voters and is expected to raise $355 million in annual revenue over the next decade to combat homelessness.

During the ceremony, awards were also handed out to the Oxford Street Shelter in Portland, Maine, and to the Central City Concern in Portland, Oregon.

The Alliance is nonprofit and nonpartisan organization committed to preventing and ending homelessness in the U.S. It analyzes policy and develops pragmatic, cost-effective policy solutions; works collaboratively with the public, private and nonprofit sectors to build state and local capacity; and provides data and research to policymakers and elected officials to inform policy debates and educate the public and opinion leaders nationwide.

First Forum for Furthering Economic Opportunities

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Ridley-Thomas convened a first-ever gathering of 171 leading economic development officials, policy makers, practitioners, and business organizations within the Second Supervisorial District. The event hosted at California State University, Dominguez Hills was initiated to discuss economic development priorities, address challenges, identify solutions, and encourage greater intra-regional collaboration by bringing together academic, business, community, and governmental leaders across a diverse district of eight cities and nearly two million residents.

“Jobs, jobs, jobs,” said Chairman Ridley-Thomas during his keynote address. “Today, we are looking to you to bring forward innovative and creative solutions to the challenges we face creating sustainable, well-paying jobs.”

Fostering economic prosperity has been a long standing priority for the Second District.   Evidence of the County’s commitment includes the County’s new small business assistance programs, a commitment to local hire, and facilitating transit oriented development.  Additionally, the neighboring cities of Compton and Inglewood were recently selected as finalists in the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation’s annual competition for Most Business-Friendly City.

In addition to the keynote, the forum featured an address from Los Angeles City Councilmember Curren Price, an overview of the regional economy by the Economics Institute of CSUDH, an informative panel discussion on fostering innovation and entrepreneurship and a presentation on the thriving sports economy that is taking hold across the Second District by SVP of the Los Angeles Football Club, Mr. Benny Tran.

A recent report by LA Biocom demonstrated the important role of bioscience in boosting the local economy, generating more than $40.3 billion in economic activity and supporting more than 69,000 direct jobs and 162,000 indirect jobs.

“Many may see bioscience as a ‘lab coat’ industry, but in reality it provides job opportunities at all levels,” the Chairman said.

The forum also addressed the important role of health services, advanced manufacturing, aerospace, and expanding sports and entertainment in strengthening the economy.

“Think outside the box and be bold in bringing forward ideas that will help our collective efforts to bring hope and opportunity to all in Los Angeles County,” the Chairman said.

A critical component of the economic forum were four working sessions focused on specific topics, including Access to Capital; Education, Training & Workforce Development; Housing; and Technology Infrastructure.  The Supervisor looks forward to receiving the recommendations from each group and working with all interested parties to implement plans that can strengthen the district’s regional economy.