Los Angeles

LA's Homeless Housing Now Costs More Than Some Luxury Condos

NBC Universal, Inc.

The price tag for some of Los Angeles' housing for the homeless is expected to hit a whopping $746,000 per unit, far more than the cost of building some luxury high rise condos in downtown.

That's according to an audit to be released Wednesday morning by Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin, which was obtained by the NBC4 I-Team.

"It is not acceptable to me, nor should it be acceptable to any of the people of Los Angeles," Galperin told NBC4.

Galperin's audit examines the use of $1.2 billion of Prop HHH money overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2016. 

Prop HHH tax dollars were intended to "facilitate development" of up to 10,000 units of housing for LA's homeless. Four years later, only 228 units have been built, the cost per unit to the taxpayers keeps rising and construction on some projects is behind.

"We have a crisis on our streets. Last year, we had 1,000 people who died on our streets, so this is a question of life and death," Galperin told the I-Team. 

Galperin says the rising cost of building housing for the homeless is due partly to the red tape involved in getting projects approved and the fact that there are "a lot of consultants" involved in the projects.

The audit says the average cost of apartments currently under construction is $531,000 per unit and is expected to get as high as $746,000 per unit on the Lorena Plaza Apartments to be built for the homeless on East 1st Street. That price tag is higher than some of LA's luxury condos that come complete with swimming pools, gyms and round the clock doormen.

"That is completely unacceptable, and there are many ways in which you can build faster and cheaper," Controller Galperin said of the high price tag.

The pandemic has slowed the pace of construction of new apartments, but it's also added thousands more people to the streets of LA.

The controller says the city of LA should change its strategy and make better us of the remaining Prop HHH money.

"There are ways that we can, for example, acquire units that already exist. We should be looking at ways at how we can acquire and/or rehab existing buildings, so we can get people into housing much more quickly," Galperin said. "We could be doing motel conversions. We should be doing it now because people are dying on our streets."

On Tuesday, the I-Team asked Mayor Eric Garcetti to comment on the findings of the Prop HHH audit, since Garcetti has been a big backer of the apartments projects being built for the homeless. On Wednesday, the Mayor's Deputy Communications Director, Alex Comisar, responded saying:

"Since the COVID-19 crisis began, Mayor Garcetti has stepped up with our State and County partners to house thousands of our homeless neighbors at an unprecedented rate. And we will use the model we've built to house thousands more in the coming months. The Mayor will always keep pushing to create more shelter capacity, so that we can bring unhoused Angelenos indoors right now. While we do that, we must also keep our focus on building permanent supportive and affordable housing as cost-efficiently as possible, because that's what we promised voters when they passed Prop. HHH, and that's the kind of housing we know will help us end homelessness. The Mayor appreciates the Controller's recommendations and will continue working with him to confront this crisis."

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