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LA Turning Seedy Motels Into Housing for Homeless Veterans

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A new plan allows developers to rapidly convert so-called "nuisance motels" into housing units

The city of LA has an intriguing new plan to provide housing for hundreds of homeless veterans by repurposing so-called "nuisance" motels. Recently, City Attorney Mike Feuer has initiated a campaign against such establishments, where criminal activity is generally tolerated. In just the past few months, the City Attorney's office has forced one motel to close for a year after a series of violent crimes occurred there, and has asked a judge to make the owner of the Grand Motel in Pico-Robertson live in the establishment until it is no longer a hotbed of drug use and prostitution.

The city's housing authority, then, appears to be trying to kill two birds with one stone here, issuing rent vouchers to developers that will allow them to turn a profit on the purchase of rundown or disreputable motels. According to the LA Times, funding for the vouchers, which will subsidize the rents of tenants and pay for supportive services, will come from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and a $600 million bond authorized by Proposition 41. So far, 500 of these vouchers—good for the next 15 years—have been issued: 100 to Volunteers of America, and 400 to Step Up on Second and Shangri-La Construction. The latter two organizations have partnered together on the project.

A big advantage of this plan is how quickly it can be carried out. Because the motels developers are targeting won't require zoning alterations or extensive redevelopment, many of these units could be ready by January of 2017. That's a much faster turnaround than the years-long process of developing such housing from scratch.

City officials are also, of course, excited to see some of these motels become a little less "nuisance"-y. In a written statement quoted by the Times, Mayor Eric Garcetti said, "Instead of allowing blighted properties to decay, let's use them to make powerful change in our communities by giving our veterans the access to services and housing that they need and deserve." According to a recent count, there are more than 2,700 homeless veterans in LA County.