Western Center, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA), and the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN), have succeeded in holding the Los Angeles City Council accountable for ensuring that Measure HHH funding is used for the creation of new housing for the city’s growing unhoused population, and that existing low-income renters are not displaced in the process.
Measure HHH was approved by voters in 2016 to address the alarming rise in homelessness in the city, with the intention to build 10,000 new units of supportive housing. Supportive housing provides not only a place for people to live, but also the services they need to maintain stability. However, Western Center and our partners became aware of potential issues regarding the misuse of HHH funds, when it was brought to our attention that the city’s HHH pilot project would allow for the provision of funding for renovations, without the creation of new housing. A few weeks later, we discovered that low-income residents of the Royal Park Hotel, which was once a residential motel, had been kicked out so the owner could sell the property. A developer then acquired the building using $10 million in HHH funding, with the intention of renovating the building to house homeless veterans.
The displacement of the Royal Park Motel tenants was exactly the situation Western Center, LAFLA, and LA CAN were concerned about when we discovered that the city was considering renovation projects for the HHH pilot project. Residential hotels and motels provide a critical source of unsubsidized housing that people who would otherwise be homeless can live in. Like supportive housing, they are a critical piece of the housing puzzle. So, while we are certainly not opposed to rehabilitating old buildings to keep them in habitable condition for existing residents, it is paramount that Measure HHH funding be used explicitly for its original intent – the creation of new units to house the city’s growing population of unhoused individuals. That undertaking must be done without harming vulnerable residents in existing low-income units.
Last month, Western Center submitted a letter with LAFLA and LA CAN alerting the city to our concerns about displacement and the improper use of HHH funds. The story of the Royal Park Motel also appeared in a Los Angeles Times story. After engaging with the city regarding our concerns, the council’s Homelessness and Poverty Committee adopted language to make the Request for Proposal for the HHH pilot project open for new construction only, with an emphasis on ensuring that low-income individuals are not displaced from existing properties by HHH-funded projects.
This week, the entire council voted to adopt the committee’s amended language. We are heartened that the city responded positively to our interventions and recommendations regarding HHH funds, and we will continue to monitor the distribution of the funds to ensure that the city stays focused on the goal — and the will of voters — to create new units for unhoused Angelenos, while avoiding the potential misstep of displacing vulnerable tenants in the process. We hope other municipalities will take note that it is possible to build new development while protecting existing, vulnerable tenants.