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Housing and Homelessness

L.A. Homelessness Initiative Supporters Say They Have Enough Signatures To Qualify For November Ballot

A woman wearing a blue blazer over a white top is speaking at a podium with a sign on the front that reads 'United to House L.A.' She is surrounded by about 15 people, all but one wearing masks,  in an outdoor space. Beside her are several file boxes stacked on a dolly. An American flag is partially seen behind them, and tall buildings are in the background.
Supporters of the United To House L.A. initiative gather to deliver boxes full of signatures for their proposed November ballot measure.
(David Wagner
/
LAist )
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Supporters of a plan to raise homelessness funds in Los Angeles by taxing high-priced home sales say they’ve collected enough signatures to put their initiative before the city’s voters.

Backers of the United to House L.A. initiative gathered Monday outside the City Clerk’s office to deliver boxes full of signatures — 98,171 by their count — in hopes of officially qualifying for the upcoming November ballot. The campaign needs just over 61,000 valid signatures to qualify.

The plan aims to raise an estimated $800 million annually by taxing property sales of $5 million or more.

“Only millionaires and billionaires have to pay the tiny tax on mega mansions,” said Alexandra Suh, executive director of the Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance , one of the initiative’s supporters. “But we'll all benefit from reduced homelessness.”

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Proponents say the money could be used to create 26,000 new homes over a 10-year period, and could help stem the flow of Angelenos into homelessness through assistance to vulnerable tenants and funding to enforce existing renter protections.

If the measure is placed on the November ballot, the initiative could set off a major election showdown between advocates for people experiencing homelessness and labor unions — which back the measure — and the city’s real estate industry, which has expressed early opposition.

“We're just concerned that another tax — levied on whatever class of owner — is not going to fix the problem,” said Ryan Ole Hass, a former president of the Greater Los Angeles Association of Realtors.

He pointed to a lack of visible progress from Measures H and HHH, two tax increases passed by L.A. voters years ago that have been slow to decrease the number of Angelenos living on the streets and deliver the promised number of housing units.

“Why don't we look at what we've raised before and say, 'OK, how can we take the money we have and make it effective?'” Ole Hass said.

Proponents of the measure say this plan is different from previous initiatives, which largely focused on the chronically homeless — those living on the streets with the most severe needs.

This measure is very different from anything that has been done in Los Angeles in the past.
— Laura Raymond, director of the Alliance For Community Transit-Los Angeles

This initiative, they argue, will help prevent people from falling into homelessness in the first place by funding eviction prevention efforts, and by more quickly creating new housing through purchases of existing buildings.

“This measure is very different from anything that has been done in Los Angeles in the past,” said Laura Raymond, director of the Alliance For Community Transit-Los Angeles.

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“This is going to provide a broad range of strategies to both build affordable housing, acquire affordable housing and get people immediately into homes that need it, and also secure for years and years to come a permanent source of funding for housing,” she said.

Labor unions such as the The Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council (representing construction workers) and Unite Here Local 11 (representing hotel and hospitality workers) are among the initiative’s supporters.

Cameron Peters, political coordinator for the nursing home and care workers union SEIU Local 2015, said the cost of housing has long been the top concern for his union’s members.

“If we cannot control the housing crisis that's going on right now in Los Angeles, that's going to affect not only our members, but the clients — all of the elderly population and the most vulnerable amongst us who our members take care of,” Peters said.

A simple majority of voters in November will be all that’s needed to approve the 4-to-5.5% tax hike on multi-million dollar property sales, according to the initiative’s backers.

Normally, tax increases need two-thirds support to pass under California law. However, recent California Supreme Court decisions have clarified that this higher bar only applies to tax hikes enacted by state legislators — not to public initiatives passed directly by voters.

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