Measure HHH: Supporters Say Tax Won’t Just Help the Homeless

Homeless residents of Los Angeles | photo Flickr John Bata
Homeless residents of Los Angeles | photo Flickr John Bata

Measure HHH may tax LA property owners in more than one way: financially and morally. The measure would allow the City to issue $1.2 billion in bonds to build housing for the homeless. The bonds would be funded by a property tax increase. How much? $9.65 for every $100,000 that your house is worth. So a $500,000 home = $48.25 more in annual taxes. (For more details on Measure HHH click here. )

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Many families who own their homes are struggling. So any tax hike is unwelcome. But here some thoughts from two well-informed city officials who understand the homeless problem and are supporting Measure HHH. They are Wendy Greuel, head of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, and L.A. City Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson who helped craft Measure HHH. 

I recently moderated a panel discussion with Greuel and Harris-Dawson put on by Imagine L.A., a non-profit organization that uses mentors to help once-homeless families transition to self-sufficiency.  Greuel and Harris-Dawson had to answer questions from an audience made up mostly of homeowners.

Greuel pointed out that when L.A.’s homeless problems seep into the suburbs, tents start showing up under freeway overpasses. That’s bad for property values. Paying a higher tax to get them off  the streets and into

supportive housing would make neighborhoods safer and increase property values.

Harris-Dawson said Measure HHH makes financial sense because it would provide “permanent supportive housing.” Supportive housing means social services for problems like substance abuse or mental illness are provided along with housing. He says it has proven success rate of 90%  even among the chronically homeless. He also said that it’s less expensive than providing services to people on the streets, services that don’t get to the root of the problem.

Greuel also explained that housing vouchers are often useless because there are too few affordable apartments and landlords are reluctant to rent to voucher holders. This is why creating more units is critical. Measure HHH would build 10,000 units of affordable housing.

Harris-Dawson said L.A.’s homeless problem has grown because ironically “the better the economy gets, the worse homelessness gets.” That’s because high paying jobs often lead to gentrification which forces low-income folks out of their low-cost apartments. He said those us benefiting from the economy should help those who are edge out.  

The audience at the panel, which was held at the Wallis Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, was in general a well-heeled group. They seemed to understand that solving the homeless problem will take a long-term investment. Although volunteer programs like Imagine LA have helped more than a hundred families, it’s going to take a much larger City-wide effort  to get 28,000 people off the streets.

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