Caruso Pushes Back on Mayor’s Call for Wealthy Angelenos to Fund Homeless Housing

Caruso Pushes Back on Mayor’s Call for Wealthy Angelenos to Fund Homeless Housing

Los Angeles Democratic mayoral candidate Rick Caruso, center, tours the construction site of the Sun Commons affordable housing development in North Hollywood, Calif., on Nov. 1, 2022. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Beige Luciano-Adams

Beige Luciano-Adams

4/19/2024

Updated: 4/21/2024

In shades of Los Angeles’s 2022 mayoral campaign, billionaire developer and former candidate Rick Caruso took to X April 19 to challenge what has emerged as the highlight of Mayor Karen Bass’s recent State of the City speech.
In her address at City Hall on April 17, Ms. Bass called on wealthy Angelenos to help move embattled homelessness programs forward.
“We are asking the most fortunate Angelenos to take part in this effort, with personal, private sector and philanthropic funds, to help us acquire more properties, lower the cost of capital, and speed up housing,” she said in the evening address April 15.
With the 2028 Olympics and World Cup approaching, and a massive budget deficit and various audits and legal challenges looming, Ms. Bass faces increased scrutiny as she tries to address public safety concerns and the growing homelessness crisis.
But Mr. Caruso—whose homelessness platform, which included a first-year budget of $843 million and focused on creating 30,000 interim beds in the form of tiny homes and congregate shelters on existing city property ultimately lost out to Bass’s in the election—said billions of dollars in taxpayer investment has amounted to a “blank check” for failing programs and more money is not the solution.
“[H]eartbreaking failures continue while unacceptable human cost rises week after week. Los Angeles does not lack funding to address homelessness. We lack effective leadership and a clear strategy for meaningful change,” he posted.
The “status quo” of a Housing First approach, which prohibits making housing conditional on sobriety, treatment for addiction or mental illness, or tenant behavior, and in which single units have known to cost an average of $600,000, he suggested, is “un-investible.”
A request seeking reaction to Mr. Caruso’s comments from Ms. Bass was not immediately returned on deadline.
With her signature Inside Safe program, Ms. Bass has focused on clearing encampments by moving people into hotels and motels as a way to better stabilize people and connect them with services, the ultimate goal being transition to permanent housing.
However, despite moving nearly 2,000 people inside during its first year, the program, which had a $67 million budget in 2023, only saw 255 transitioned to permanent housing.
“I have no doubt the private sector is ready to step up. But that will not happen until there is confidence investments won’t be tossed on the bonfire of wasted and ineffective spending that’s characterized our city’s homelessness strategy to date,” Mr. Caruso wrote.
Saying that he has given “generously” over the years to prevent and solve homelessness, but providing no further details, the billionaire developer called for a “new and practical game plan” with measurable results to inspire investor confidence.
Then-Mayor Eric Garcetti and U.S. Rep. Karen Bass visit a Homekey site along Pico Boulevard as he announces awards for homeless housing projects across the state in Los Angeles on Aug. 24, 2022. (Keith Birmingham/The Orange County Register via AP)

Then-Mayor Eric Garcetti and U.S. Rep. Karen Bass visit a Homekey site along Pico Boulevard as he announces awards for homeless housing projects across the state in Los Angeles on Aug. 24, 2022. (Keith Birmingham/The Orange County Register via AP)

Last year, Mayor Bass allocated $1.3 billion of the city’s $13 billion budget to tackling homelessness, a historic expenditure. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, a joint county-city agency, had a budget of more than $845 million in fiscal year 2022-23. Ms. Bass is expected to release her budget for the upcoming fiscal year later this month.
Despite historic investments, both the county’s and city’s homeless populations have increased by 70 percent and 80 percent, respectively, since 2015. Last year’s point in time count showed an increase of about 10 percent for both from the year prior, recording 75,500 now in the county and 46,200 in the city.
The state is not doing much better. A recent audit showed that despite $24 billion invested in the crisis over the past five years, the state has failed to collect and analyze data from its many programs and agencies, making it difficult if not impossible to know if programs are in fact working.
In response, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday called for increased oversight of state-funded programs.
“I’m not interested in funding failure any longer,” he said in a press conference, announcing nearly $200 million in new state funds that will go toward helping people transition from encampments to housing.
A quarter of that—$51.5 million—is earmarked for Los Angeles.
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Beige Luciano-Adams

Beige Luciano-Adams

Author

Beige Luciano-Adams is an investigative reporter covering Los Angeles and statewide issues in California. She has covered politics, arts, culture, and social issues for a variety of outlets, including LA Weekly and MediaNews Group publications. Reach her at beige.luciano@epochtimesca.com and follow her on X: https://twitter.com/LucianoBeige

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