Here’s an idea that wouldn’t survive the laughter in most U.S. communities.
But this is California and more specifically, Los Angeles. So, local government is moving ahead with a plan to move some of the county’s exploding homeless populations off the streets and — wait for it — into your backyard.
The idea is to build little homes or large huts, depending on your scale, in the backyard of willing homeowners. A kind of YIMBY — Yes In My Backyard.
According to the county’s pilot program, rents to homeowners would be covered by government low-income housing vouchers with homeless tenants contributing 30 percent of their income, assuming they have some. If they don’t, well, who are you to question the wisdom of well-intentioned government spending more of your money to fix an intractable problem?
Without addressing the lack of income for rent, County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said, “Many, many of them are just regular people like you and me who just lost their job or lost their house and really don’t have other choices.”
With a smidgeon of liberal understatement the L.A. Times reported:
While the idea of backyard homeless units might seem far-fetched, officials hope it could be a fast and relatively inexpensive way to house the most stable individuals among the 58,000 homeless people in L.A. County.
They’re already launching design competitions and exploring low-cost construction materials and financing options. LA voters previously okayed taxing themselves $4.6 billion (as in $4,600,000,000) to build homeless housing.
While the newest proposed solution is very la-la-land, the county’s homeless predicament is very real — an estimated 58,000 people living on the streets, in cars, tents and lean-to’s. Downtown residents walk out of their high-priced condos to wade through garbage, cardboard beds and human waste.
For a while some mayors placed portable toilets downtown, but they were removed after becoming sites for stand-up prostitution.
The homeless problem has worsened since L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti took office in 2013. He’s one of a battalion of expected hopefuls quietly preparing their liberal or progressive track records to seek the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Garcetti says:
People are looking at what they can do to make our neighborhoods more affordable and help more Angelenos find stable places to live. That’s why (backyard units) are attracting so much interest.
Under the program the county would lend $75,000 to homeowners to build a backyard house or $50,000 for a garage-type renovation for up to six units. Loan principal would be reduced for each year a formerly homeless person occupies the unit.
After 10 years, the loan would be forgiven and homeowners would be free to do as they want with the building. Imagine the sales pitch if that homeowner ever tries to sell his home including a homeless hut out back.
To gauge interest in the idea, the county reached out to 500 homeowners. Less than one-in-five expressed interest. County officials pronounced that overwhelming. So, as you can see, the program is moving ahead, whether it’s realistic or not.