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Jordan Reid

Author; Founding Editor, Ramshackle Glam

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California needs more affordable housing for homeless

Aug 03, 2023

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According to a University of California San Francisco study, nearly one-third of the homeless population in the United States resides in California. The primary reason Californians say they end up homeless is the loss of income. Most of them say that a modest subsidy of $300 per month could have prevented them from becoming homeless.

To tackle the crisis, Straight Arrow News contributor Jordan Reid argues that California’s first priority should be addressing the shortage of affordable housing for low-income and unsheltered residents.

There are not enough homes. There are certainly not enough low-income homes. See, when new housing is not being constructed at a level that fits the demand, what happens is that the high-income residents take over the more affordable units, bidding up the prices. Middle-income workers, then they take over the lowest price units, again bidding up the prices, and low-income people are left with virtually no options at all. 

For many workers, especially those who have found themselves experiencing homelessness due to an abrupt disruption in their finances, it is simply not possible to accumulate the funds required to pay for a deposit on an apartment. In California, even a studio apartment can easily go for $1,500 a month easily. And even these so-called affordable units are often located in areas that are far removed from access to jobs, public transportation, childcare.

Anyone who lives in California, as I do, can attest that the homelessness crisis is real. And it is intense and it is growing worse by the day. 30% of the nation’s unhoused population lives in California, that’s nearly 200,000 people. If you drive into the downtown area of La you, you’ll be stunned by the size of the tent cities that line block after block after block.

 

You know, I never really gave much thought as to why California is the epicenter for people experiencing homelessness. I guess, like a lot of people, I assumed it was the weather. If you don’t have anywhere to sleep at night, especially in the depths of winter, better here than Wisconsin, right?. But that is a ridiculous and massively reductive concept, if you think about it.

 

People who suddenly find themselves homeless, for whatever reason, tend not to have the resources or the desire to pack up and move to another state. Moving is expensive. Suddenly, finding oneself unhoused is also an intensely vulnerable situation. And instinctively, most people will want to stay close to family or to friends or to an environment that they recognize and in which they feel comfortable.

 

Homeless people are not moving to California in droves. The reason why so much of our country’s unhoused population lives in the state? It’s because that’s where they come from. Last month, researchers at UC San Francisco released the largest representative study of unhoused people in more than 25 years, and found that the overwhelming majority of homeless Californians surveyed were locals. 

 

This is not an issue of people flooding California’s borders in search of better public services and sunny weather. It is an issue of housing affordability. There are not enough homes. There are certainly not enough low-income homes. See, when new housing is not being constructed at a level that fits the demand, what happens is that the high-income residents take over the more affordable units, bidding up the prices. Middle-income workers, then they take over the lowest price units, again bidding up the prices and low-income people are left with virtually no options at all. 

 

For many workers, especially those who have found themselves experiencing homelessness due to an abrupt disruption in their finances, it is simply not possible to accumulate the funds required to pay for a deposit on an apartment. In California, even a studio apartment can easily go for $1,500 a month easily. And even these so-called affordable units are often located in areas that are far removed from access to jobs, public transportation, childcare.

 

When someone experiences an event that causes them to lose their housing, a job loss, a substance abuse issue, maybe even just a conflict with a roommate, the solution should be to move to a more affordable environment. But in California, I don’t know where that would be. There is no truly affordable housing here. The housing market is broken. And it is the government’s responsibility to step in, to remove barriers to construction and create more options, or really any options, for their most vulnerable citizens.

 

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