Hollywood dream tours of mega-mansions can’t mask LA’s housing and homeless nightmare. From north to south, streets are lined with people without shelter—25,000 within city limits; 47,000 in LA County according to a January count.
Blacks are 50% of those, and the numbers of women, children, LGBTQ youth, and elders are on the rise. In two districts, the number of Native American homeless people rose six-fold since 2015.
The racism that capitalism created to justify slavery and the theft of indigenous land remains engrained in our economic system. Today, it takes the form of discrimination, the rollback of affirmative action, high unemployment, and obscenely low wages—all of which contribute to disproportionate numbers of Blacks and Native Americans among the homeless.
Explode the myth of resource scarcity
Sufficient resources exist to provide decent housing for all, but the billionaires and mega corporations who own and control those resources invest their profits in making more profits. This is how capitalism operates. It causes environment-destroying development, gentrification, astronomical rent increases, foreclosures, and evictions. It cuts public sector jobs with living wages, while most new jobs are low-paid, without benefits. The rising cost of health care and basic living expenses contributes to the growing disaster.
The same racism that the capitalists foster to keep the working class divided and wages low operates here to push communities of color out of the neighborhoods they built over many years.
Halt Government favors to private profiteers
Government officials, beholden to big business for their election campaign funds, pay allegiance to the profit-making interests of giant corporations and property owners. The tax breaks and subsidies provided from public funds amount to corporate welfare.
Privatization of low income housing began in 1973, when President Nixon halted the expansion of federal subsidy programs for public housing and created Section 8, which gives vouchers to tenants for housing that is increasingly unavailable. Unless a whole building is designated for Section 8, tenants must hunt for private landlords willing to rent to them. Many landlords refuse. This shift from government to private/commercial ownership of rental property greatly favors landlords over tenants.
State and local laws allow landlords to raise rents when tenants leave rent-controlled units, to evict tenants to make way for boutique hotels or high-end condos, and to charge tenants half or more of the cost of earthquake retrofitting.
A recent LA City Ordinance invites police harassment and criminalization of the homeless. It prohibits them from keeping with them more belongings than what would fit in a 60-gallon container, and makes it a misdemeanor to fail to clear off the sidewalks between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. Cruelly sweeping the homeless out of sight of the well-to-do is no solution!
Provide full funding for truly affordable housing
Public officials try to make themselves look good by coming up with grandiose proposals. In January, the LA City Council developed a $2 billion plan. However, they only budgeted $138 million toward it this year, and they don’t even have all of these dollars on hand without new taxes. Meanwhile, the City is offering $198.5 million in tax savings to Related Companies, one of the most prominent real estate firms in the U.S!
The State plans to issue a $2 billion bond to build 10,000 to 14,000 new housing units for homeless people suffering from mental illness. But that only meets 10% of the need. The County wants to tax 1% of income over $1 million. Taxes on millionaires are a step in the right direction, but both wealthy individuals and big business need to be taxed at much higher rates than the 1% that is currently proposed.
Neither Governor Brown nor Mayor Garcetti has yet declared a homelessness state of emergency–which would allow them to cut red tape and seek more federal assistance.
Join homeless and housing advocates who say “enough is enough!”
More and more people are organizing to end homelessness. On May 14, Cloud9 and the Monday Night Mission workers, who see the crisis firsthand, organized a “March for the Homeless” down Hollywood Blvd. calling for city officials to declare an Emergency on Homelessness. In April, the Renters Day Coalition rallied at City Hall to demand legal reforms and more funding. In February, South LA residents fought confiscation of tiny houses that provided immediate shelter.
Renters and working class homeowners didn’t create this crisis; we are its victims. It is our job to hold government accountable for the crisis and responsible for its solution. For this we must build a broad, united front of unions, political and community organizations, workers dealing directly with the crisis, tenants, the unemployed, and homeless people and take these issues head on, without apology or compromise. And in the long run, we need to change the system so that all that we produce goes to meet human needs and sustain the planet.
Let’s increase the pressure on elected officials to:
- Declare a State of Emergency on Homelessness
- Impose a moratorium on evictions, foreclosures, and the destruction of rent controlled buildings
- Immediately provide safe, quality shelter and basic necessities to all homeless people until permanent housing is available
- Convert all abandoned L.A. City and County buildings into public housing
- Expand project-based Section 8 (attached to apartment buildings)
- Expand rent control to all rental living spaces
- Create living-wage union jobs through massive public works programs