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LOS ANGELES—Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas spoke Tuesday about the need for federal aid and a "Right to Housing" ahead of the City Council's approval of a resolution to support any legislation that increases rental assistance resources, including housing vouchers, to help the region address its homelessness crisis.
"We need to aggressively seek a new paradigm of federal legislation that would effectively support our attempt to scale up our response to this crisis. I think all of us recognize and appreciate that we have to do more, but we cannot and nor should we be expected to do it alone," he said.
Ridley-Thomas, who has called for the city to enact a "Right to Housing" policy, introduced the resolution with fellow councilmembers Nithya Raman and Gil Cedillo. The resolution passed on a 14-0 vote, with one member absent.
Ridley-Thomas called on the federal government to support Los Angeles with resources to combat the homelessness crisis through rental assistance, citing President Joe Biden's statement that "housing should be a right—not a privilege."
"Essentially, if you're part of the working class, if you're a part of those who we have traditionally defined as the working poor, you have to practically win the lottery to live in housing that you can afford ... We won't change this if we don't work with our colleagues in the nation's capital to double down on this voucher program that is embedded in this (resolution)," Ridley-Thomas said.
On April 13, Ridley-Thomas released a video campaign to show the public what "Right to Housing" could mean for Los Angeles.
Ridley-Thomas' office cited a poll that found 60% of Californians support having a legally enforceable right to housing. About 568,000 people in the United States are experiencing homelessness, with 151,000 in California, 66,436 in Los Angeles County and 41,290 in Los Angeles, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority's most recent homelessness count conducted in 2020. The 2021 count was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Every day, 207 people find their way back into housing, either with help or on their own, but 227 additional people fall into homelessness, according to Ridley-Thomas.
In March, he proposed a motion that was unanimously approved by the City Council to have the city explore establishing a "Right to Housing" policy. That motion also calls for the city to identify resources, propose a strategy and timeline for a "Right to Housing" framework and consult with community leaders, nonprofits, academics, philanthrapists, businesses, government officials, legal advocates, tenants and people who have experienced homelessness themselves.
Some critics of a "Right to Housing" say that the policy has had unintended consequences in New York, where instead of solving homelessness, it has pushed homeless people out of sight and into temporary shelters.
"If West Coast cities follow in New York's footsteps, the same Bureaucracy 101 outcome could ensue: ‘temporary' shelters become a self- perpetuating industry with no incentive to change course," Deborah Padgett, a professor at the NYU Silver School of Social Work, wrote in a December 2019 Ozy article. She noted that New York City's annual homeless budget was more than $3 billion, with 80% of it going to shelter providers.