May 24, 2018

HUD official: State, local governments need to “pull more weight” for homeless

Local governments must pull more of the financial weight in solving the homelessness crisis in cities across the country, Neal Rackleff, assistant secretary for community planning and development at the Department of Housing and Urban Development told an audience Thursday morning at the American Bar Association’s 27th Annual Forum on Affordable Housing and Community Development Law Meeting.

The three-day conference, which will wrap up on Friday, May 25, brought together legal, government and private housing experts to Washington, D.C., to discuss the state of fair housing, economic development, tax reform and affordable housing, among other topics.

Rackleff blamed local land-use policy as having “exacerbated” the problem of homelessness around the country. In many instances, local regulations and long development approval processes have limited how cities respond to the growing demand for affordable housing.

Also, “A large portion of the funding for the homeless comes from the federal government,” he said. “In my opinion, it’s not sustainable for the federal government to bear all of the cost.”

Rackleff said he’s impressed by cities and counties like Los Angeles “stepping up” because “it adds to the pool of resources, so [the federal government] can help more people.”

In L.A., the homeless crisis has resulted in growing sidewalk tent encampments. Rackleff said there was a 25 percent increase in homelessness in Los Angeles over the last year. But, “cities like L.A. are setting the tone” in helping to resolve the challenge of homelessness by issuing bonds and raising taxes to create more revenue for affordable housing, he said.

Rackleff praised the efforts of Los Angeles city and county leaders. “L.A. is on the right trajectory,” he said. Los Angeles has OK’d a $1.2 billion bond that will build housing for the homeless. Voters in Los Angeles county also approved a sales tax increase that’s projected to raise $350 million a year for 10 years to help homeless people transition to affordable housing.

The conference was sponsored by the ABA Forum on Affordable Housing and Community Development Law.