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Study Calls for Changes to Shelter the Homeless : Rehabilitation of Buildings, Modifications of Zoning Regulations and Financing Advocated

September 06, 1987|DAVID M. KINCHEN | Times Staff Writer

The estimated 1.7 million vacant buildings in the nation that could be converted to ease the nation's homeless crisis are of little help to the Southland, where vacant and abandoned buildings are rare or non-existent, according to a preliminary study by the Washington-based National Institute of Building Sciences.

The study, "Meeting America's Housing Needs . . . Through Rehabilitation of Existing Housing and Vacant Buildings," calls for modifications in zoning regulations, building codes and financing to house the nation's estimated 400,000 to 4 million homeless, according to Rene A. Henry Jr., president of the organization.

Speaking at a Century City news conference, Henry called for "humble rehabilitation" of vacant and abandoned buildings.

"This means relaxing or changing regulations and financing plans that make adaptive reuse of old structures too expensive for the private sector and subsequently too costly for those who need the housing," he said.

Henry said NIBS will hold fact-finding forums in Los Angeles, New York, New Orleans, St. Louis and Chicago later this year to compile data for a final report expected to be released early next year. Vice President George Bush and Congress requested the NIBS report.

Henry added that, according to the housing assistance plan submitted by Los Angeles to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, there are 313,943 households in need of housing assistance in Los Angeles. This represents 28% of all households in the city and two-thirds of all low-income household in the nation's second largest city, he said.

The waiting list for the 22,000 federally assisted and public housing units in the city is four times the number of the total dwelling units; the rental vacancy rate is 4% to 5%, and there are an estimated 30,000 homeless people in the city, Henry said.

With little or no chance for federal subsidies during the months remaining in the Reagan Administration, it is up to the local government to lead the way to create housing for the homeless, he added.

"The housing is there, at least in most cities," he said. "We just have to utilize it. Much of the potential housing is in the cities where there is the greatest need, places like New York City, Chicago, Washington and Baltimore."

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