Aid agencies for the homeless often face what they call the NIMBY- “not in my backyard”- problem; the challenge that even those who support the homeless don’t want shelters in their neighborhoods.
But a Los Angeles program aims to reverse that, with homeowners inviting homeless families into their backyards to live in small, purpose-built residences subsidized by the city.
Los Angeles County has introduced a pilot program that would provide subsidies to homeowners building “accessory dwelling units” (ADUs) or, as they are sometimes known, “tiny houses.” To qualify for the subsidy, homeowners would agree to rent the ADUs to homeless men and women for three years after construction.
The initiative is expected to begin next spring. The New York Times reported that more than 500 homeowners have already applied for the program. ADUs are typically small dwellings built behind a home, or converted garages.
The city’s mayor, Eric Garcetti, announced on Oct. 29 that Los Angeles has received $1 million from the Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge, which will help fund the new program.
“The ADU pilot is specifically designed to pair homeowners with homeless Angelenos who are stable, prepared to move into housing, and ready to rebuild their lives,” said Garcetti, according to Los Angeles Daily News.
“For a homeowner, it’s a win-win: the city lowers your construction costs, matches you with a tenant who is determined to make their housing work, and connects you with a case manager to ensure a seamless transition.”
Through tax breaks and reduced permitting fees for building, homeowners could receive $10,000-30,000 to help construct the ADUs.
The tenants will receive reduced rent for two years and case management support. By the third year, tenants will be expected to pay full rental prices, unless they qualify for other housing subsidies.
Landlords will be matched with tenants through a computer matching tool that takes into account the needs of both parties. Homeless families will also be reviewed by nonprofit organizations, in a process designed to screen out tenants who would be a poor match for the program.
The program comes at a time when homelessness continues to rise in Los Angeles. The city has seen a 75 percent increase in its homeless population, increasing from 32,000 to 55,000 in the last six years, according to the Los Angeles Times.
In 2017, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles lamented that the growing number of homeless people indicates a widening gap “between those who have what they need for a dignified life and those who do not.”
“I worry that we are getting accustomed to these sights in our city. We cannot allow ourselves to accept a Los Angeles where sidewalks become permanent residences for our neighbors.”