LOS FELIZ—Last week the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) published a report indicating a 16 percent rise in homelessness in the city over the past year to 36,300 people. The increase occurred after LAHSA housed 21,631 people in 2018, an increase of housing placements by 23 percent from the previous year. 

According to the report, District 4 which includes Los Feliz, parts of Silverlake and San Fernando Valley, is up 53 percent from last year. Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu who represents District 4 introduced a plan earlier this year to build homeless housing at a Riverside Drive site in Griffith Park. According to a source at Ryu’s office, the project would provide 75-100 beds and is moving through the study and approval process now. 

“Last year, we placed 21,000 people into housing, with 7200 more units in the pipeline and three homeless housing projects in Council District Four opening this year. But it is not enough” noted Ryu in a statement addressing the crisis. 

The LAHSA estimates that there are multiple economic factors driving homelessness such as wages not keeping pace with rental cost and the need for affordable housing units to meet the needs of low income renters. Ryu, along with council members Mike Bonin, Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Paul Koretz, recently introduced a motion to investigate the number of vacant housing units in the city as well as explore new avenues to penalize landlords who hold housing units empty.

“We know that our City has more than enough luxury housing, but not nearly enough affordable and moderate-income housing. What we need is a factual, data-driven picture of vacancy to understand our housing needs. I co-introduced this motion today because our City and our residents cannot afford to wait any longer,” said Ryu in a statement.

If enacted, the city of Los Angeles would not be the first city to adopt such a measure. Oakland, Vancouver and Washington D.C. have also implemented a vacancy tax. San Francisco is considering a potential vacancy tax as well.