Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, offered the following statement for the record in response to a special meeting of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors earlier today with Mayor Eric Garcetti and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Juliàn Castro to address the City and County of Los Angeles’ ongoing efforts to address homelessness:
“As Ranking Member of the Financial Services Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, which has jurisdiction over the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s programs, I would like to applaud Los Angeles City Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council, as well as the County Board of Supervisors for their leadership in seeking to address the growing crisis of homelessness in Los Angeles. I was pleased to hear that the City Council has declared that homelessness in Los Angeles has risen to a ‘state of emergency,’ and that Mayor Garcetti has announced a new strategy that will invest at least $100 million in City funding annually towards a solution. I was also pleased to hear that the County Board of Supervisors has also responded by pledging a one-time commitment of $101 million towards homelessness.
I absolutely agree that the recent rise in homelessness in Los Angeles has risen to crisis proportions. Since 2013, the homeless population in Los Angeles County has risen 12 percent despite an overall reduction in homelessness nationwide. The Los Angeles County Continuum of Care, which excludes the cities of Glendale, Pasadena and Long Beach, reported a 16 percent increase in homelessness since 2013. This increase is in part due to the fact that Los Angeles has the largest gap between wages and rents among all major rental cities nationwide.
There is no doubt that an additional surge in government funding is necessary to address homelessness in Los Angeles. So I am very pleased that the Mayor and the City Council, and the Board of Supervisors have come together to pledge substantial new funding towards this effort; however, it is unclear where the annual commitment of $100 million in City funding will come from, and whether LA County will continue to commit additional funds. We need to be creative and innovative if we are serious about securing the necessary resources and coordinating a cohesive strategy.
It is also critical that Los Angeles City and County work together to address this issue. As the Ranking Member of the Financial Services Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, I guided the passage of the reauthorization of the McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance program as the Chair of the Housing and Community Opportunity Subcommittee at the time, and I have worked hard to support federal funding for programs that help to address homelessness. Most recently, the Los Angeles County Continuum of Care received approximately $92 million in federal homeless assistance, in addition to $10 million in bonus funding. In the same year, Los Angeles City and County received a combined $83 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds.
CDBG funds are designed to be a flexible source of federal funding to allow local officials to target funds towards their local housing and community development priorities. That is why I am encouraging both Los Angeles City and County to collaborate in implementing a comprehensive strategy to address homelessness, and to consider redirecting their combined CDBG funds towards this mutual priority in addition to their existing commitments for funding towards homelessness.
I am also looking into any legislative solutions that can assist local leaders in addressing this crisis. I have already introduced legislation this Congress that would help address the rental housing crisis, which exacerbates homelessness, including a comprehensive bill to fully support the public housing program. Later this week, I will be introducing a bill that will make it easier for housing authorities to partner with the nonprofit and private sectors to create and preserve housing for homeless populations. So I look forward to working with the Mayor and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to ensure that we are making meaningful strides towards reducing homelessness in Los Angeles.”
As Ranking Member of the Financial Services Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, Waters has made addressing homelessness in America a top priority. Just last month, the Ranking Member organized a Congressional briefing with actor, activist, and philanthropist Richard Gere and a panel of policy experts on homelessness to bring attention to the issue. Later this week, Waters is organizing a tour of a homeless service provider in Washington D.C. for all Members of the Financial Services Committee in order to help Members gain a better understanding of how federal funds are used to successfully address homelessness.
 A Continuum of Care (CoC) is a regional or local planning body that coordinates housing and services funding for homeless families and individuals.