For Kevin de León, homelessness– and the conditions that lead up to it– are deeply personal. From his own experiences with housing insecurity, Kevin knows only too well what it is like to live on the margins. Those experiencing homelessness often have multiple jobs, like Kevin’s mother did, but simply can’t make ends meet. Addressing homelessness is not simply a matter of providing temporary housing. It means creating an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy. It means getting to the root of the inequities in our city that cause homelessness in the first place.
That’s why in his 14 months on City Council he moved swiftly to create more emergency housing opportunities than anyone else in the City. He built the largest Tiny Home Village in the nation in just under four months, and he did it under budget. He purchased two hotels in El Sereno and converted the old Cecil Hotel into homeless housing. All told, he has created over 2,000 interim housing units in one Council District in just over a year. Additionally, his “Homeless Housing NOW” plan, which was passed unanimously by the City Council in February, will create 25,000 units of housing by 2025, just three short years from now.
Kevin isn’t just talking about solving our homelessness crisis – he’s doing it now.
First, Kevin knows we need to build more housing. His “25×25” plan, which was passed unanimously by the City Council earlier this year, will create 25,000 units by 2025. This program will scale up the production of emergency shelters quickly, and includes permanent supportive housing – which is what’s needed to provide our unhoused neighbors a fair shot at the life they deserve. It also explores creative housing solutions like adaptive reuse, tiny home shelters, and master leasing to put a roof over peoples’ heads quickly.
In order to reduce building costs and speed up production of these units, Kevin and his team are creating a limited menu of pre-approved plans (standardized plans for modular multi-family housing, accessory dwelling units, and affordable housing that covers all required disciplines, including architectural, structural, grading, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing) as part of the A Way Home LA package which was approved by City Council this year. These units are designed to cost $100,000 or less to build and can be started quickly. The City will work to identify more land to build on by overhauling the process for identifying usable private properties that could be transformed into interim shelter and permanent supportive housing.
Kevin also knows that it’s not enough to help the 41,000 Angelenos who are unhoused. We have to keep people who are in danger of losing their homes stable. That’s why Kevin will mandate affordable housing in every new project across the city and stop displacement of low income residents for luxury units. For too long, the city has allowed developers to buy their way out of creating affordable housing by paying in-lieu fees. Instead, we must require the inclusion of affordable housing in new projects; and incentivize further development by upzoning commercial corridors and expanding adaptive reuse.
Kevin is also supporting vulnerable tenants- because he knows solving homelessness also means a commitment to stopping it before it begins. He will uphold and implement the Tenants’ Anti-Harassment Ordinance, a newly-created program that gives tenants a baseline of protection from predatory landlords. He will also tighten the circumstances where renters in rent stabilized units can be displaced due to new development.
He will also enforce a tenant’s right to counsel. Approximately 90% of tenants facing eviction lack access to counsel, yet the right to counsel is one of the most cost-effective ways to keep people in their homes. And he has already started work to create a centralized relief system, so that the City is prepared to proactively help renters when they need it most.
As Mayor, Kevin will continue to provide job assistance and critical supportive resources to those who need it most – starting with expanding and streamlining FamilySource and WorkSource Centers. The city currently has entities to provide job assistance or help with receiving critical resources for those in need. This needs to be expanded throughout the city by doubling the amount of FamilySource Centers and WorkSource Centers.
This fight will require significant additional funding, so as Mayor, Kevin will create a team – directly accountable to the Mayor’s office – that will lead negotiations with Sacramento and Washington D.C. for resources to deal with homelessness and mental health – from increasing the value of Section 8 vouchers to funding for wraparound services.
For the second largest city in the nation, our existing bureaucracy – splintered between the city and county governments – has become a life-threatening hurdle to progress. Kevin has already introduced a motion to create Los Angeles’ own public health services under a new, central entity, the Los Angeles Department of Public and Mental Health, giving the city a mechanism to draw down resources from the state and federal government to more efficiently provide mental health and substance abuse recovery services to our unhoused Angelenos.
Currently, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority serves as the designated Continuum of Care for the majority of the cities in LA County. Continuums of care are required by the US Housing and Urban Development Department in order to receive federal funds. Every city in LA County (as well as unincorporated areas) is part of the Los Angeles Continuum of Care except for Glendale, Long Beach, and Pasadena which have their own. Continuums of Care can draw down their own federal money, which is why the City of Los Angeles needs to be its own Continuum of Care. This will remove the County bureaucracy from our homelessness relief efforts and allow the City to have the resources it needs in order to finally combat this issue.
Rather than simply hiring more armed officers, Kevin will assign 12 mental health professionals (civilian staff from the new Los Angeles Department of Public and Mental Health) to each of the 21 LAPD divisions (2 sets of 2, each 8 hr shift). These civilian staff will be integrated into each division so they will be able to build relationships with homeless individuals in a given area. These mental health professionals will be city employees who are within the same reporting structure as LAPD, so they can be quickly deployed in a mental health emergency or call for LAPD back up.
Lastly, Kevin will work to broaden the ability to access support during a mental health crisis. A person shouldn’t have to be a danger to themselves or others to get the support they need. We will also work with the State to make it easier for famlies and loved ones to provide much-needed help for those truly too incapacitated to accept it.
Kevin understands that we cannot afford to wait around for fantastical solutions from people playing at politics– we have to act NOW. That’s why his plan presents action-based solutions to get our unhoused neighbors the help they need immediately.
As Mayor, Kevin will take this same action-based approach and hit the ground running to get our fellow Angelenos off the street and into housing, and to get them the help they need.