Homeless camps: Homeless tents at an encampment near the PATH apartment complex in Los Angeles on Nov. 17, 2021. Courtesy photo

Last week, Senate Bill 7 (SB7) failed to advance in the Senate Appropriations committee. Introduced by Senator Catherine Blakespear from Encinitas and co-sponsored by Venice-based Safe Place For Youth (SPY), the bill would’ve mandated that California provide free, permanent housing for any homeless person currently in the state.

SB7 would have created a new Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) income category for homeless people. A housing implementation plan would then require each municipality to enumerate timelines and specific proposals for providing the homeless “at least one housing opportunity.” Homeless identified in multiple surveys (both current and past) would qualify for the “housing opportunity” in addition to those identified as being “at risk of homelessness.”

In remarks made before the senate housing sub-committee, Senator Blakespear said the bill would provide for shelter beds, SRO hotel rooms as well as safe camping and safe parking opportunities. However, the new RHNA housing allocations would only apply to new, permanent housing units.

Asked about this discrepancy, SPY’s Senior Advocacy Manager, Dexter O’Connell said that it was important to the bill’s sponsors that the services Blakespear mentioned, be addressed. He added, “homelessness is a crisis of many things, but it’s not honest to say that the housing crisis is not an important component of the homeless crisis. That’s what SB7 is intended to address.”

In the end, the appropriations committee’s decision not to advance the bill may have come down to cost. The bill called for no market rate adjustments to current policy such as increasing density allowances for all projects, or re-legalizing small SRO units – adjustments which could impact homeless housing at no cost to taxpayers. The bill only called for providing housing for homeless people through low income housing corporations using taxpayer funds. The average cost of those units is now approaching well over half a million dollars each.

In a fiscal year where the state is projecting a large budget deficit, the enormous price tag of Blakespear’s bill, (estimated at minimum 100 billion dollars), may have been too much for lawmakers to swallow. SPY, however, stands committed and signaled that the bill would be re-written in time for the next legislative session.

Published in partnership with the Westside Current

Barry Cassily

Special to the Daily Press