Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Form and Fill a Housing Fund

January 26, 2002

Thousands of people in Los Angeles live packed in decrepit apartments, shabby motels, converted garages or cars crammed with their possessions. Those conditions won't end because of Mayor James K. Hahn's proposed $100-million housing trust fund, but it's a start.

The mayor's plan now goes to the City Council, which seems likely to approve it--a decision we applaud. After that, an advisory committee, appointed by the mayor and including nonprofit housing advocates--such as Jan Breidenbach, whose Housing LA pushed long and hard for the fund--will decide how the money is spent.

Here are a couple of ideas: The bulk should be used to produce low-rent apartments for large and poor and middle-income families, those having the hardest time finding decent housing in the city. Money should also go to creating housing that low- and moderate- income people can buy. This would help bring the city's homeownership up from 39% of households toward the 66% national average.

Currently the fund has only $10 million, and that balance must get closer to Hahn's $100-million goal before any groundbreaking begins. The gap would cause some politicians to dump the issue. Indeed, Hahn could have backtracked, using the sinking economic picture after Sept. 11 as an excuse. He didn't. His proposal recognizes the city's fiscal "challenges and budget shortfalls" and imposes no new fees on businesses or residents.

Rather, to fill the fund the mayor is counting on increased city business tax revenues from scofflaws caught paying state taxes while skipping city fees. He has also proposed shifting federal community development block grant money from the nonhousing uses preferred by his predecessor or left unspent. Then there's a 5% increase in the amount the city's Community Redevelopment Agency sets aside for housing. Finally, Hahn hopes to be able to chip in property taxes diverted from community redevelopment areas that no longer exist, proceeds from the sale of city property, a share of vehicle license fees that grow with the city's population, and some tobacco settlement funds. With the mayor putting so much effort into this plan, council members should be racking their brains to find other money to pump into the fund, which they should vow to keep full year after year no matter which way the economy goes.

That first $100 million, after all, will hardly solve the problem, building perhaps 4,000 affordable units a year if every dollar were spent on new construction. Los Angeles needs to add 60,280 housing units by 2005, according to the Southern California Assn. of Governments, and housing advocates who know their way around garage dwellings and other unfit housing put the number much higher. Let's consider the trust fund a good down payment on housing in a city where far too many families pay their rent or mortgage at the expense of just about everything else.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|