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Report Finds it Will Cost $8.1 Billion Annually to End Homelessness in California

112,527 affordable apartments needed, reports finds

By Dolores Quintana

The California Homeless Housing Needs Assessment has found that it would cost the state of California an average of $8.1 billion a year each year for 12 years to put an end to homelessness at the current level of need. This is a calculation made without factoring in any assistance from the federal government. The estimate is 2.7% of the current state budget or an additional $6.9 billion after the already budgeted $1.2 billion out of the current California budget of $303 billion.  

The breakdown of the cost is as follows. The study proposes building 112,527 affordable apartments at a cost of $5.7 billion per year for 12 years, to subsidize operations and rents for 225,053 apartments at a cost of $1.8 billion a year for 12 years. In addition, the plan calls for the state to provide supportive housing services for 62,966 California residents with disabilities at a cost of $488 million a year for 12 years and fund interim interventions for 32,235 individuals and families at a cost of $630.4 million total for 12 years for a total of $80.1 billion. After that, all that would be needed is $4.7 billion a year for maintenance. 

Debbie Thiele, regional managing director for the Corporation for Supportive Housing said, as reported by Bloomberg.com, “California has invested record amounts of funding toward homelessness in recent years, which has resulted in more people accessing shelters and decreases in the proportion of unsheltered people. But only homes end homelessness. And the state has never developed a comprehensive plan for its investments and housing for people who are without homes.”

While this might seem like a lot of money, the continued cost to the state in money and the toll of lost human life is far more costly. Many people point the finger at mental illness and drug use as the reason why people are on the streets, but the costs of housing are skyrocketing in big cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco every year, so it’s not something that can just be blamed on the unhoused as some kind of character flaw. Without taking steps to end homelessness, the problem won’t go away and could only grow over time as the cost of living, and rents rise without being checked and jobs with the salaries to pay for housing and other needs aren’t there. 

California, as a state, has the economy of an independent nation. The state is currently the fifth-largest economy in the world and is on the cusp of being able to overtake Germany as the fourth-largest economy in the world. The truth of the matter is that while many mock the state as a place that is falling apart, the reality is that California’s economy is stronger than a lot of other countries in the world, much less than other states in the union. The proposed cost of ending homelessness is only 3% of California’s budget or a quarter of one percent of the economic activity of California. 

California Assembly member Buffy Wicks, chair of the Assembly Housing Committee, said, as quoted by Bloomberg.com, “This has metastasized into a crisis of epic proportion. It deserves funding to address that at the same scale. Everyone says your budget is your values,” Wicks said. “If you look at the California state budget, there is not a line item that says funding for homelessness.”

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