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Crisis in Affordable Housing

December 24, 1988

Jill Stewart's articles on the crisis in low-income housing and the homeless were very keen and stark in pointing up the human tragedy and its growing dimensions (Part I, Nov. 27-29). But the solutions to the crisis remains unclear.

During my recently completed 20 years as the chief executive officer of the Retirement Housing Foundation, seven low-income housing projects providing 1,650 apartments were placed in service in the city of Los Angeles by the foundation, and an additional 400-plus units were assisted by the foundation. The work depended on the assistance of the Community Redevelopment Agency, HUD, the Community Development Department and funds from the foundation.

Today, HUD resources to support low-income housing have shrunk to a small fraction of its former thrust, leaving the initiative for meeting the crisis to city, county and state agencies. Recent bond issues will help at the state level. The county of Los Angeles is almost helpless due to the restriction on revenues imposed by Proposition 13. General funds from the city, as well as the county are unavailable.

The only remaining sources for funding is the CRA, and the so-called "linkage trust" funds hopefully to be derived by imposing fees on new construction projects. Bond funds may help, but it should be remembered that bond funds have to be repaid like any other loan.

The most reasonable and likely source of funds for low-income housing remains the CRA. And the CRA will depend on raising the "cap" if it is to increase as well as continue its commitment to low-income housing. The nonprofit developers have done a great deal, but so much more remains to be done. A blend of private and public energies will continue to be required.

If any blame is to be assessed, it falls upon a complacent and self-serving society that has lost much of the historic American concern for the down and out.

CLARK HARSHFIELD

National Housing Trusts

Los Angeles

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