The Homeless Hole That Ate Los Angeles

What’s a few billion more for social justice?

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical left and Islamic terrorism.

The homeless are everywhere in the City of Angels. The retail strip of any neighborhood, no matter how glitzy, will host at least one wandering schizophrenic cursing random pedestrians and the sky. Colorful tent cities grow in the shade of blighted overpasses like poisonous mushrooms. There are homeless encampments on the lawn at City Hall across from the LAPD HQ. Near Venice Beach, the smell of ordure can be overpowering, and last year the befouling of public streets led to a Hepatitis A outbreak. The hard rain that’s falling isn’t coming from the cloudless sky: it’s streets being power washed with bleach.

Walk down a street in the trendier parts of Los Angeles and you’re more likely to spot marijuana dispensaries than churches. The ubiquitous green cross is everywhere. Its faithful believe in only one higher power that they can’t smoke. So as the homeless problem grew, they turned to government.

And to higher taxes.

Proposition HHH was going to solve the homeless crisis by hiking property taxes to raise $1.2 billion. The money would be used to build housing for the homeless. $1.2 billion could house all the homeless.

Couldn’t it? If it couldn’t, it was part of a $4.6 billion package of homeless tax hikes. There was Proposition H which added to the already hefty sales tax. Los Angeles voters backed that one too.

But instead the number of homeless increased faster than the supply of homeless housing. By ’18, the number of homeless was up to 58,000 from 32,000 in 6 years. Increasing subsidies to the homeless only increased their number. As usual, government social welfare was generating more of the problem.

And, even more predictably, no amount of social services spending was ever enough. The annual shortfall was estimated this year at $270 million. The new projected cost hovers at $628 million. 

The Measure H sales tax wasn’t supposed to run a deficit (but like every government program ever, it was bound to) until the fourth year when costs would exceed revenue (necessitating more tax hikes.)

But the tax and spend holiday came early instead because government excels at spending money.

The homeless housing being approved costs an average at $479,000 per unit. Two run at $650,000.

That’s not homeless housing: it’s homeless luxury condos. And it’s being paid for by the same middle class that is being squeezed out of Los Angeles by the coalition of Democrat politicos and lefty activists.

Total development cost for Measure HHH has hit $869 million.

Why is “affordable housing” so unaffordable? One reason is that, as usual, it’s also kickbacks to a variety of special interest groups. If you want incentives for building affordable housing, you have to pay union wages. And that raises costs by 30% making building affordable housing… unaffordable to actually build.

The linkage fee, due in 2019, is the latest brilliant plan to solve the housing crisis by taxing housing. The $100 million it raises will go into the same gaping hole where shortfalls twice as high as that just vanish.

The $4 billion bond in 2018 is just more money leaking into an unpluggable money hole.

Government regulations raise the cost of housing so that only luxury condos are profitable. And then tax the luxury condos to build affordable housing which end up costing luxury condo prices. The middle class flees a city and state where it can’t afford to buy a house. And after tax reform’s impact on the wealthy in high tax states, the exodus of those who have been subsidizing this is also underway. 

And so the plan to tax luxury condo buyers to build luxury condos for the homeless may hit a snag.

That won’t however stop voters from voting for them.

California’s top-two primaries are the single greatest act of voter suppression today. The primaries make it futile for Republicans to participate in elections. When there isn’t a Republican on the ballot in the general election, the only voters who show up are lefty Democrats motivated to vote against more centrist Democrats. And that swings the electorate to a demographic that will vote for any lefty plan.

But it’s the sense of crisis that moved voters to pass multiple tax hikes and spending packages.  Public officials and activists cried, “crisis” and got everything that they wanted. But they were the ones who created the crisis. And every taxpayer dollar that they got was dedicated to making the crisis worse.

All the plans to fight homelessness only attracted more homeless. That’s the reality behind the mysterious massive increase in the homeless population. Whether it’s in Los Angeles or New York, when lefties begin a major campaign to fight homelessness, the number of homeless suddenly increases.

There are a variety of reasons for this phenomenon, including newfound motives by activist groups to discover more homeless once there’s a funding bonanza. And the programs bring in homeless from outside the area or incentivize people who aren’t homeless to claim the status to get the benefits.

At the rate of $479,000 per unit, trying to house every homeless vagrant will quickly outpace any of the old tax hikes and revenue plans. When 26,000 new homeless people can show up in 6 years, building housing for all of them would cost $13 billion. And housing them would require permanent subsidies.   

The last budget came in at a little over $9 billion. The proposed 2018-19 budget is $9.9 billion and includes $430 million in homeless spending. That’s up from $178 million last year. To put that into perspective, Los Angeles will spend less than $300 million on street and road infrastructure that is a core function of municipal management. 5% of the budget is going to a tiny fraction of the population.

And yet social welfare spending on that tiny fraction can quickly eat up much of city spending. And then turn into what Mayor Garcetti dubbed an, “almost undefeatable spout.”

The “undefeatable spout” manifests itself in lefty social welfare programs. The spout bursts forth because individual maladjustment is treated as a social problem that is the fault of society. Subsidizing the misbehavior makes it worse while corruption and incompetence gobble up the cash. The amounts actually needed outstrip expectations. And the problem is never solved because it’s never addressed.

Instead it’s enabled, coddled, subsidized, encouraged and transformed into a proud victim identity. And a few years later, it’s even worse than ever. But what’s a few billion more for social justice?

Homelessness is not a social problem. Mostly it’s due to untreated mental illness and drug abuse. There are people who became homeless after suffering life setbacks, but it might have been better not to price them out of their homes. Government regulations have made Los Angeles one of the more expensive places to build housing. Adding to the cost of housing will only price more people out of their homes.

The left’s idea of helping the homeless does them no favors.

Decriminalizing abusive behaviors like public urination and defecation led to a Hepatitis A outbreak. Taxing homes will raise housing prices higher so that government housing becomes the only option for more people. And that will further increase demand for housing beyond anything that can be met.

And then the “undefeatable spout” eats your budget.

Los Angeles is only getting started. Billions more will be thrown at the homeless problem. The problem will get worse. New tax hikes and spending measures will roll out every year. And there will be more schizophrenics wandering the streets or fouling the beach. The same homeless hole that’s eating San Francisco has camped its colorful tent in Los Angeles. And isn’t leaving no matter how much is spent.


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