LOS ANGELES – Having made a deep financial commitment to create housing for some of its 27,000 unsheltered homeless people, Los Angeles is falling short in building new apartments to take thousands of people off the streets, a new study finds.
Nearly three years after city voters approved a $1.2 billion construction program over 10 years, the city has yet to see the first building completed. Average per-apartment costs have zoomed more than $100,000 past prior predictions, the study by city Controller Ron Galperin finds.
"To create a bigger impact now and in the future, the city must make some immediate changes to its approach," said Galperin in comments via email. "Los Angeles needs to figure out how to make the cost of development cheaper and the timeline quicker."
At an average cost of $531,373 per unit – with many apartments costing more than $600,000 each – building costs of many of the homeless units will exceed the median sale price of a market-rate condominium. In the city of Los Angeles, the median price for a condo is $546,000, and a single-family home in Los Angeles County has a median price of $627,690, the study states.
Prices rose dramatically because of higher-than-expected costs for items other than actual construction, such as consultants and financing. Those items comprise up to 40% of the cost of a project, the study found. By contrast, land acquisition costs averaged only 11% of the total costs.
Instead of the 10,000 apartments touted by city leaders as the goal of the bond issue, the city measure known as Proposition HHH is now projected to provide a total of 7,640. The hope is that the new apartments, combined with dormitory-style shelters and other facilities, can make a dent in the city's unsheltered homeless population.
"I don’t think anyone can say what Los Angeles has done to create and build housing for the unsheltered has been successful or good enough," despite voters having passed the funding proposition by a 77% margin, Galperin said. "We are not where we need to be."
With tents pitched on sidewalks, alleys and along riverbanks, homelessness has become a top issue in Los Angeles, creating public health issues and an eyesore in a city that's long been a tourist destination. President Donald Trump has singled out California for criticism over the homeless problem.
Last month, Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One on the way to California: "We can’t let Los Angeles, San Francisco and numerous other cities destroy themselves by allowing what’s happening."