Affordable Housing: California’s State of Emergency

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An op-ed by USC graduate students Ray Tse and Rebekah Hong

A state of emergency. Four daunting words that should catch the attention of our state. On Wednesday, September 25, 2019, the Los Angeles City Council proposed a state of emergency on homelessness. Los Angeles declared a state of emergency four years ago on the same issue – there were 25,000 homeless then. Today, an estimated number of 130,000 people are homeless in California with 36,000 of the population in Los Angeles. That is an increase of 11,000 homeless people in Los Angeles the past four years. It is now an issue for Governor Gavin Newsom to follow through on this recent proposal making sure that California and Los Angeles receive the federal support needed in a state of emergency.

We see them on the streets, living in their vehicles, on the sidewalks, and under freeway ramps. So listen up California. Policy makers. Residents. We have solutions on how to alleviate this emergency. Subsidized housing and building affordable housing are all proven remedies needed now. It’s your choice whether to listen, but more importantly, to act.

Let’s talk about this and the stigma behind affordable housing. Let’s break this stigma and focus on the positive aspects of affordable housing. What if I told you that affordable housing could benefit you? Or that affordable housing benefits whole communities?

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Studies have shown that affordable housing leads to an increase in health, education, and neighborhood quality. First, we can focus on the issue of education. Studies suggest that students who experience homelessness or hypermobility are far more likely to drop out of school and suffer from learning disabilities and behavior problems. From the standpoint our children, we can see that this results in an ongoing cycle of poor academic achievement and poverty.

From a healthy community standpoint, increasing affordable housing options would help relieve the constant stress for families working fulltime but still cannot afford the rent. Think about what safe and affordable housing means to you. Many individuals in our community face the fear of losing their home every month. Whether you are rich or poor, we all need housing. By creating more affordable housing, people are able to focus on raising healthy families.

Homeowners will benefit from local income and increased property values. We all want to create an environment that will benefit our futures. Therefore, how about if we start off with not rejecting the idea of affordable housing? It is time to take a look at a resolution that will work for you and your community.

We must address the stigma surrounding affordable housing. For example this summer in California’s own state capitol of Sacramento where residents opposed building affordable housing. Neighbors “fear the apartments will continue a trend of concentrating low-income and homeless individuals….” 

Ending Homeless is one of our  Grand Challenges. As opposition continues, the struggle increases, and this crisis will not get solved. Wake up California, we have an actual state of emergency, an epidemic occurring and as long as we fear change, things will only continue to worsen. It is time to say no to fear and yes to courage. It is time to move on from No In My Backyard (NIMBY) to Yes In My Backyard (YIMBY). It is time to speak up at city council meetings and say yes to building affordable housing. We know that affordable housing will not hurt our society, but will benefit it. Let’s step out with courage and embrace change. Let’s change California.

Ray and Rebekah are graduate students at USC in the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work program. This is an important issue to them as future social workers and concerned residents of Southern California. They hope that from this op-ed piece it will be a wake-up call for action to the government and residents. 

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