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LA Actually Has a Way to Pay for Its Homelessness Plan

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Two city councilmembers are trying to put a bond measure on the November ballot

Back in January, the city of Los Angeles unveiled a plan to spend nearly $2 billion taking on the homelessness epidemic in the city. Since then, the question of where all that money might come from has been pretty much up in the air. Mayor Eric Garcetti proposed new developer fees to cover some of the funds in his most recent budget proposal; city leaders have traveled to Sacramento to lobby for state assistance; there's even been talk of a marijuana tax that could raise more than $16 million annually. Now, however, just ahead of the deadline, City Councilmembers Jose Huizar and Marqueece Harris-Dawson are pushing for a measure to appear on the November ballot allowing voters to approve a bond that would provide at least $1 billion for the construction of affordable housing. (The council has until June 1 to ask the city attorney to draft such a ballot measure.)

For a long time, city officials have been waffling between submitting either a housing bond or a sales tax increase to voters this coming November, and it wasn't clear until yesterday that they'd do anything at all. A recent poll seems to have settled the matter for Huizar and Harris-Dawson, at least; those surveyed were far more supportive of a bond measure than a sales tax hike. That also means one less regressive sales tax on a packed ballot that also includes a big-deal Metro funding measure. Once drafted, the ballot initiative will still have to be approved by the full city council by the end of June, but the support of Harris-Dawson, who chairs the council's Homelessness and Poverty Committee, and Huizar, whose district includes Skid Row, should go a long way toward making that happen.

Even though an overwhelming majority seem to want the bond, getting it approved might be tough. In the poll showing support for the bond, a whopping 68 percent of voters said they were likely to vote for the measure, but California requires two-thirds of voters approve new bonds and taxes, and the polling only barely beats that high threshold.

Harris-Dawson, though, believes Angelenos will support the measure come voting day. He tells the Times that "voters are prepared to make an investment ... what's different now than what I think it's been in the past is that there's no part of the city that doesn't experience homelessness." That seems to be correct; a count conducted earlier this year showed that homelessness had risen in 12 of the city's 15 council districts over 2015.