On Tuesday, the Anaheim City Council will consider recommendations developed by Councilman Jose F. Moreno’s Homeless Policy Working Group – including embracing a “Housing First” policy; support for installing portable bathrooms and showers for homeless camp residents; building more year-round emergency shelters and other formalized living arrangements f0r the homeless on city-owned land; and exploring revenues streams – including taxes and fees – to sustain homeless service efforts.
A recommendation that the city “explore” adopting a rent “stabilization” ordinance did not make the final cut, despite a strong pitch by Councilman Moreno.
Click here to read the working group’s recommendations, which were finalized when working group members voted on each recommendation at their last meeting on November 3.
The working group met eleven times between July and November. Its membership was initially dominated by homeless advocates, including Eve Garrow of the ACLU – which is responsible for the judicially-created safe zone that prevents the effective enforcement of anti-campaign laws on the Santa Ana River Trail between Ball Road and I-5 Freeway. The committee was soon broadened at the request of other councilmembers.
The underlying idea of “Housing First” is that the homeless should be immediately and directly placed into “permanent supportive housing” with “wraparound services – even if they haven’t overcome or begun dealing with issues such as drug or alcohol addiction that are the proximate cause of their homelessness. Supporters says the odds of achieving self-reliance and sobriety are greater when a homeless person is in an apartment than in a tent. They’re critical of the traditional idea that individuals overcoming self-destructive behaviors, learning to follow rules and achieving some measure of self-reliance are necessary to succeed in independent living.
“Housing First” also depends upon the availability of housing that is affordable.
For months, homeless advocates – several of whom are members of the working group – have spoken at every city council meeting declaring that Housing First is the only way to end homelessness. They contend it is a matter of forcing the County of Orange to taking the hundreds of millions in federal funds it is husbanding and spending it to house the homeless.
Housing First advocates are generally hostile to the idea of transitional shelters such as
Portable Showers and Bathrooms
The working group voted to “encourage the Council to support efforts for basic sanitation needs” of the homeless and “strong consideration for appropriate locations.” In plain English, this means installing portable showers and bathrooms for use by transients living in homeless encampments.
Earlier this year, Councilman Moreno unsuccessfully sought city council support for homeless advocate Mohammed Aly’s effort to install porta-potties at the Rampart Street encampment. Moreno’s proposal met with strong opposition from residents who validly contended such measures make the encampments more permanent.
At the November 3 meeting, Councilman James Vanderbilt’s aide Helen Myers expressed his reservations about this recommendation, stating it is not the city’s responsibility, especially since the homeless aren’t necessarily Anaheim residents.
More responded that “If the county said we would like to put some portable restrooms and portable showers in unincorporated Anaheim ,would the council then say ‘No, you will not do that’? So, we would be recommending to the council that we should be supporting of efforts to provide basic sanitation, if it was needed. So again, the latitude for the council to support efforts or if it wanted to initiate efforts, the council would presumably vote on that.”
Either way, the working group wants the city council, as a matter of policy, to support installing portable showers and bathrooms at homeless camps.
At it’s October 20 meeting, the working group adopted a draft recommendation that the city council “Explore and evaluate rent stabilization efforts and/or policies for the City of Anaheim.”
Rent stabilization is a form of rent control. Generally speaking, rent stabilization ordinances caps how much landlords can raise rents, and places limits the rights of property owners in terms of operating their apartments.
District 1 Councilwoman Denise Barnes raised the topic at the October 20 meeting. Eve Garrow from the ACLU signaled their support for a rent stabilization ordinance and urged its inclusion in the working group’s recommendations.
According to the meeting minutes:
Council Member Barnes suggested they need to evaluate the model of rent stabilization. She clarified she is not going to say rent control. She thinks this is something that has to be stabilized until they get over the hump, which is more housing, and more wrap-around services that will help move faster than the rent.
Moreno proposed including the recommendation for the council to “examine and evaluate rent stabilization,” saying (according to the minutes) that “you have to slow the train down while they are trying to figure out the current context of homelessness.” Moreno asked if anyone objected, and none are recorded in the minutes.
When the working group re-convened on November 3, several representatives of the apartment and building industries spoke against inclusion of the rent stablization recommendation, given its demonstrated failure as a policy to increase the affordable housing stock (among its other defects).
Vanderbilt aide Helen Myers voiced her councilmember’s opposition to the recommendation.
Barnes herself was singing a different tune, reading from a prepared statement in which she recanted her support for prompting the council to evaluate rent stabilization.
Councilman Moreno responded with a plea for exploration of a rent stabilization policy:
“Rent stabilization could be a cap on rents, it could be the city taking a position through its housing program on what kind of rents we offer through our city housing or to develop city housing. It could discuss ways to engage with the private sector on ways to reduce fees to allow rents to be more stabilized. There’s a lot of ways to stabilize rents, and it’s unfortunate that we can’t simply have a conversation and encourage our city council to have a conversation.
The reason I support this is we’ve been meeting now with residents throughout our district, throughout the city, whose rents are being raised by $300 to $500, and the association doesn’t seem to be able to control that. And as a result, there’s a potential in parts of my district, of 50 residents, in about 3 weeks, will no longer be able to afford their apartment because it’s going from about $1,050 to $1,400, because that’s what the market says that owner can get for their apartments. I don’t begrudge the apartment owners wanting to increase their profitability to sustain their own lives – it is an investment by them – but I am concerned as it matters to homelessness. We know that the UCI report said that 40% of homelessness in the county is a function of economics – most cannot afford a place to live. We have testimony from Angel Mayfield who is part of a collaborative group on the riverbed who shared with us that her two jobs that allow her to rent a studio apartment and also sustain transportation to keep those jobs.
So I think for me, if we recognize that wages have stagnated, and the data is very clear, but rents keep going up – something has to happen. So to ignore the economics of housing in our recommendations, I think, frankly, kind of ignores half the problem.
So I would urge the panel to please reconsider and please do not fall for the notion that this is somehow gonna divert. It doesn’t. This is the essence of what we’re seeing in Orange County. Folks can’t afford a place to live, so they end up doubling up in another family’s unit. The association will then be asked by councils across the county to enforce housing rules and regulations – code enforcement – you can’t have three families in a one bedroom apartment. Now those two extra families have nowhere to go.They end up on the streets. So for us to ignore this as an issue I think would not do justice to the issue let alone for the councils – to not allow our council to not have to engage the conversation would not be in the best interest of this issue.”
Captain Eric Carter of the Anaheim Police Department expressed his view this was extraneous to the working group’s mission and that it is “ignoring economic as a whole if you don’t let the market do what the market does.”
Moreno responded: “Right, and what the market has done is it’s contributing – it’s not solely responsible, but its contributing.”
In the end, a majority of the working group agreed with Carter and the recommendation was left out.
“Homeless” Taxes and Fees?
Another draft recommendation from the October 20 working group meeting was for the city council to examine taxes and fees to fund homelessness efforts.
Moreno’s take was this didn’t necessarily mean imposing a new tax (a la the sales tax hike approved by LA voters to fund homeless services), but could also entail examining existing taxes and fees for possible re-allocation as funding streams for city homeless initiatives.
This is in line with Moreno’s efforts to re-negotiate the city’s economic assistance agreements with 4-Diamond hotel developers, or re-direct Anaheim Tourism Improvement District finding.
Ultimately, the working group opted to subsume the tax and fee recommendation into another, broader recommendation to look for dedicated funding streams.
More to come in Part 2