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Yes on Housing Bonds

October 13, 2002

Bedraggled men bedding down on church steps for the night. A family shuttling between emergency shelters and short-term rentals. Addicts on Los Angeles' skid row. A couple with two children and stable jobs struggling to get out of a cramped rental into a home they can own.

These are the varied faces of Californians who could be helped by Proposition 46, a $2.6-billion bond measure on the Nov. 5 ballot that would spur a few new remedies to the shortage of housing in the state, especially for people who are poor or destitute.

Proposition 46 is not perfect. The measure is fuzzy about who gets funds: The disabled, "struggling families with no place to go" and farm workers get money. So do teachers in need of a down payment, state universities that want to build more dorms and first-time buyers of homes under 175% of the median sales price in a region.

All of this is nice, and some of it would indirectly ease the strain on people who are really at risk of living on the streets or in a temporary shelter. But more money should have been earmarked for the very poor and the mentally ill and addicted people who routinely sleep on sidewalks and under bridges, most of whom need more help than the offer of a cheap apartment.

As Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca puts it, counties will have to move quickly to get money for their poor, before it's snapped up by better-organized groups that build suburban-style homes.

California's respected Little Hoover Commission found that more than two-thirds of the poor spend more than half of their already slim incomes on housing, putting them at risk of losing their homes in a fiscal emergency.

Too many of the needy end up on the streets, either full time or part time. By voting yes on Proposition 46, Californians can begin relaxing that squeeze.

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