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Real estate is a weird, weird world to work in. Being a landlord or rental property owner has its own challenges without trying to keep an eye on every single out-of-place law that there is. Most of the time, legislation can make sense, but some of the time, the “black sheep” of laws seems to come out of nowhere. Check out some of these nonsensical laws that seem difficult to explain.

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When you’re about to start renting your investment property, one of the first things on your list should be a well drafted lease. Choosing to go with a lawyer to help you draft the lease is an excellent idea since your attorney has experience in this area and will make sure you dot all your i’s and cross all your t’s. If you can’t afford a lawyer to help you with this task, or simply want to tackle this on your own, then reading up on this article will greatly help you cover very essential points in your tenant lease agreement. Including important clauses in your lease will prevent future headaches if (and when) you’re faced to battle legally against one of your tenants.

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Another week, another lie about Proposition 13. The new narrative from the Prop. 13 opponents is that California’s high fees for building homes and commercial property is due to Proposition 13 denying local governments the ability to raise revenue.

A study just released by the University of California Center for Housing Innovation concluded that the “impact fees” that local governments charge developers are a big reason why it’s so expensive to build a home in California. The fees are not only costly, they’re also unpredictable, lack transparency and can kill a project’s viability, according to the study.

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The client has invested in real estate since 1987. After experiencing difficulties in renting an industrial property she owned for the past 13 years, it was time to sell. Having sold many properties in the past, the concept of doing a 1031 exchange was all too familiar to her. She questioned whether or not to do it this time. In consulting her financial advisor and CPA, she was informed of the tax consequences in selling this property. In hearing this information, she inquired into the best course of action for her tax situation. The advice was based on a simple question, “Do you want another rental property”? Emotionally, the client was tired of the responsibilities associated in being a landlord, in addition to everything involved in purchasing another rental. Logically, however, it was concluded that the best course of action was to purchase a replacement property and defer the taxes.

Industry News: Rent Control Measure Returns, Legislative Analysis Says That’s Bad for State, CRE

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The latest incarnation of California’s rent control measure that was defeated last November has returned. Proposition 10 2.0, Michael Weinstein’s Rental Affordability Act, is targeted to be back on the ballot in 2020.

The state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) says the bill will result in a number of negative impacts, including California’s housing situation, the state’s finances as well as CRE market. The LAO says it would likely drive rental units from the market, decrease apartment property values, and possibly diminish annual tax revenues by tens of millions of dollars or more.

California voters turned down Proposition 10 last year, but the new version of the bill would allow cities and counties to impose rent control on buildings after they turn 15 years old. Under the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, local jurisdictions may not impose rent control on units built after 1995.

The proposed measure would also once again allow local governments to apply vacancy controls, meaning rents would remain regulated in rent-controlled jurisdictions even after changes in tenancy.

“The analysis clearly points to a reduction of available homes, as stricter rent control leads property owners to take units off the market, said Tom Bannon, CEO of the California Apartment Association. “Prop 10 2.0 would drive down property values and prompt an exodus from the rental housing market. California needs sensible housing policies that protect tenants and encourage the building of affordable homes for working families. This measure makes the crisis worse.”


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The Apartment Buildings Conference & Expo presented by Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA) returns to Pasadena Convention Center on October 2nd, from 9:00 A.M.-4:00 P.M. Expo highlights include an exhibit hall, educational seminars and breakout sessions on trending topics facing multifamily owners, investors, developers, property managers and real estate professionals. Admission is FREE.

Expo attendees are invited to meet with industry experts, guest speakers and attend industry roundtables on rent control, fair housing, legal issues, tenant screening, the eviction process, investment strategies, housing incentives, property management, preventative maintenance, and other topics. An exhibit hall with 100+ suppliers will showcase the latest in management software, forecasting and analysis tools, roofing, seismic retrofitting, energy and utility systems, lighting, fire and safety equipment, insurance, legal counsel, tax preparation, alternative real estate investments and more.

Attendees are also invited to get free legal, financial and investment advice and learn how to lower property costs and improve performance. Past speakers have included Jon Coupal of The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Terry Tornek, Mayor of Pasadena, Tracie Mann of Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles, and Daniel Yukelson, AAGLA Executive Director. This year’s AAGLA-hosted special breakout sessions will feature speakers on the new balcony inspection law, workers compensation insurance and legislative updates with structural engineer Jay Kumar, property expert Angel Rogers, workers compensation specialist Kevin Osterman, and others.

The Apartment Buildings Conference & Expo is produced by AAGLA, Apartment News Publications and On The Edge Promotions. Expo partners are Apartment Age, Apartment Management Magazine, California Association of Realtors (CAR), Beverly Hills Greater Los Angeles Apartment Association (BHGLAA), and California Association of Housing Authorities (CAHA). Held at Pasadena Convention Center on Wednesday, Oct. 2nd, hours are 9:00 am-4:00 pm. Admission is free. On-site parking is $15.00 per day. Exhibitors call (800) 931-6666 or email info@buildingsla. com. Pre-registration and information at www.buildingsla.com.

The Property Manager’s Guide to Tenant Selection

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by David Crown

As a property manager, I’m in the business of eliminating stress and headaches for property owners. Since nothing can complicate the life of a property owner quite like an irresponsible or malicious tenant, tenant selection is of the utmost importance in this industry, and it’s something I’ve devoted a great deal of time to refining.

Just the other day, I was at breakfast with a client of mine who owns a quadruplex in the San Fernando Valley. He mentioned that one difference he’s seen since he hired my company to manage his property—a difference it took him a few years to notice—is that the tenants we’ve rented his units to tend to stay put. He had told me in our first conversation that he could always fill his units immediately, that finding new tenants was never a problem. I remember my immediate thought back then was that he probably wasn’t getting top dollar for his apartments, and his rent-controlled units were suffering because of it. Now, he said he recognized that keeping the units full was a different story. It got me thinking about the mark of high-quality tenant selection criteria: it doesn’t just fill your apartments. It brings in tenants who stay longer and pay more each month. In this article, I’ll lay out the best ways to choose tenants to rent apartments to.

Firstly, it’s crucial to run an in-depth background check on all prospective tenants. We use an eviction search that spans the whole country in scope, telling us of any evictions the prospective tenant has been subject to. State-limited searches are out there, and if you use one of those, you could easily wind up renting to somebody who’s been evicted a dozen times in other states. In the national search, a record or lack thereof gives us some picture of the tenant’s prior dealings with landlords. We then begin to clarify that picture by contacting their former landlords.

Now, any property manager worth their salt knows to call a prospective tenant’s last listed landlord and ask how easy or difficult they were to deal with. But think about this: if the most recently listed landlord on an application is still currently renting to the prospective tenant, and has had a terrible time dealing with them, isn’t it possible that they’ll tell you the tenant is great, in hopes of pawning the them off on you? I’ve seen it happen before. This is why we call not only the most recently listed landlord, but also the one before that, and sometimes even a third if listed. We ask all of these landlords if the tenant was ever late on rent, if the police were ever called to the tenant’s unit, and if the tenant ever in any way violated their lease agreement. The more thorough you are with your questions, the better.

This brings me to my final point: don’t favor fast over thorough. You might be looking at these steps and thinking, “How can he do all this and fill the unit fast?” But I answer that question with a question of my own. What’s more important to you as an owner: finding tenants who move in immediately or who pay higher rent for a longer time? Plenty of owners and managers boast of their ability to fill units at lightning speed, without considering the fact that they might be leaving money on the table. Don’t get me wrong; we work hard to maximize quickness and efficiency as well. But that’s secondary to finding tenants who’ll pay the rent your property is worth, and who will furthermore stick around for years to come. This leads not only to higher profits for owners, but to the peace of mind that comes with not having to advertise vacancies every year. Don’t turn your apartments into revolving doors for a constant stream of new tenants. Difficult tenants—who turn in rent late, complain about nonexistent problems, and in some cases wrongfully sue landlords—are not worth filling a vacancy fast. Quality tenants, however, are worth the added work and wait.

David Crown is the C.E.O. of Los Angeles Property Management Group, and has over twenty-five years of experience managing all types of income properties. A hands-on leader who has managed properties in 16 states, Mr. Crown has been asked to serve as an expert witness in property management matters, and currently serves on the Forbes Real Estate Council. He can be reached directly at (818) 646-8151.

Commercial and Multi-Family Property Exit Strategies: How to Make the Right Choices for Your Portfolio

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By Elizabeth Reynolds and Bob Wess, KW Commercial

No matter which Exit Strategy you choose, partnering with the premier brokerage firm is key!  Spectrum Properties provides full brokerage services.  We partner with you from acquisition through exit strategies.  We are your “one stop shop” for real estate, partners for life!

Your Investment….Our Focus.  Your Asset….Our Experience!

Here are eight key exit strategies. We hope you find these tips useful for making the right choices for your portfolio.  Knowing your exit strategy upfront is essential!

  1. Quick Turn. Evaluate these deals for cash flow, appreciation and/or for equity gain at the time of acquisition.  Establish a network of investors looking to “Move Fast”. Secure the deal by putting it under contract and negotiate your purchase price.
  2. Force Appreciation.   For those non-performing properties and those investors who are looking for big returns, this is an ideal strategy.  Look for properties that need exterior improvements, lack curb appeal, require new or upgraded landscape, lighting and/or parking lot improvements.   These properties may need interior improvements such as; lobby/entry area updates, elevator repairs, ceiling and/or interior finishes in order to bring them current and more relevant.  Eliminate major deferred maintenance items such as roofing, fencing, plumbing, HVAC, water heaters and electrical issues. Next reduce the overall reoccurring expenses by renegotiating with existing vendors and/or bring in new service providers.  Now that the property looks fantastic and you have marketed it in order to cure vacancies, it is time to increase the rents. Finally, create pass through expenses based upon a percentage of the rents per unit. Not only has the overall property value increased, so  has your NOI!
  3. Refinance. Given the NOI of your property has now been maximized, you are ready to move forward and refinance the property.  Interview lenders and appraisers, request loan proposals and understand the key terms of these loan options. Determine if the loan is recourse or non-recourse and be sure to not over leverage.  During this refinance process, understand how much you want to pull out of the property in order to re-invest and grow your portfolio. Remember: Real Estate is the best investment vehicle for leverage!
  4. Sell With Owner Financing.  Carry paper in the short term to allow for maximum sales price.  Enjoy strong cash in flow without the headaches of property management.  Hold onto your collateral and ensure good ernest money deposit as well as higher interest rates.  By providing this short term loan you are able to create a spread, paying an interest rate of 6% to the bank and financing to the buyer at 9%, earning 3% on the loan.  This provides the buyer time to optimize the property, prior to refinancing it with a long term loan option.
  5. Conversions/Highest and Best Use. Condo conversion projects were big in the early 2000s.  Consider the trailer park conversion to a mobile home park.  Mix use products are ideal in the cities, creating a place to work/live with office and studios.  Rezoning is ideal these days as many investors are purchasing industrial properties and converting them to creative office or buying infill lots and repurposing them for the highest and best use based upon the need for that area.  Flattening the property and rebuilding is an option, especially for those small single family lots, amongst commercial and retail.  
  6. Outright Sale. When considering the sale of your property, you might consider a 1031 exchange or just an outright sale.  Spectrum Properties is here to assist you through these processes.
  7. 1031 Exchange.  Often investors do not realize the taxation on a personal residence is far different than taxation on income or investment property. 1031 Exchanges offer tremendous advantages and are well worth investigating, prior to selling
  8. Hold and build Tremendous Wealth.  Enjoy annual rental increase, gain operating efficiencies once your property is optimized, establish advantageous long term financing, experience the power of multiple tenants – pooling their money to pay down your mortgage.  Depreciation, Depreciation, Depreciation!!  

Maximize your Portfolio with Spectrum Properties!!

KW Commercial

Elizabeth Reynolds
Commercial Broker
Over 25 years of experience in commercial and multi-family acquisition, management and construction. Ms. Reynolds began her career as a property manager for a large multifamily complex, while completing her Bachelor’s degree in Operations Management at Cal. State Polytechnic University.  Elizabeth has successfully overseen various real estate departments including; Property Management, Operations Management, Sales/Business Development, Acquisition/Market Analysis, Financing, Advertising/Public Relations as well as Supply Chain, Information Technology and Program/Project management.

KW Commercial

Bob Wess
Director of Wess Commercial Group at KW COMMERCIAL in Orange County, CA
Director and Senior Advisor to corporate and private clients on real estate investments. His background includes most categories of commercial properties but specializes in the sale and leasing of single-tenant retail, multi-family apartments and senior living facilities in Southern California. Bob has been a leader in the real estate industry in well-known public and private corporations for more than 30 years with over 2 million sf either bought, sold or developed and has experience in many of the markets throughout the U.S. Bob is a licensed California Real Estate Broker, a Counselor of Real Estate [CRE], has a Masters Degree in Real Estate from the University of Southern California [USC], a HCCP designation for tax-credit affordable housing and is a Certified Property Manager [CPM] candidate through the Institute of Real Estate Management.

Crossing Your Fingers Isn’t Enough Anymore

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By Eric D. Jarvis, Esq., Founder of ReassureRent

Tenant screening has long been the method by which rental property owners have protected themselves against unplanned vacancies.  Ask almost any landlord or property manager, and they will tell you that they do excellent screening and have never had an eviction.  And yet, according to the Orange County Register, 499,010 unlawful detainer cases were filed over the last three years in California. The status quo of using tenant screening alone is not enough to protect a property owner’s rental income.  California owners and managers now have a new tool to ensure that their rental income is protected – tenant default insurance.

Conscientious landlords run background and credit checks on their prospective tenants.  It is common belief that renters with higher income levels, a strong credit history, and a history of making rent payments on time are less likely to default on their lease by not paying rent.  So, we have long been taught to obtain credit reports, screen income levels, and check on prior evictions of our prospective tenants as well as we reasonably can. There are many competing providers of tenant screening reports, and these reports are often accessible through apartment associations.  These steps help reduce the likelihood of tenant default, but are not completely foolproof. 

Just google “tenant horror story” and “looked good on paper” to find many examples of tenants who passed every benchmark on their tenant screening, but ended up becoming expensive liabilities.  The tenant stops paying rent, and then employs multiple strategies to hold out in the unit for months, costing the landlord time, money, and emotional aggravation. The loss of rents, legal expenses, and attorneys’ fees pile on top of the landlord’s continuing obligations to pay the mortgage, insurance, and property taxes the entire time.  None of this is predicted, prevented, or cured by a screening report alone.

Now, there is a way for California property owners and managers to guaranty the rent, even if a defaulting tenant slipped through the screening process – ReassureRent tenant default insurance.  Purchased by the landlord at the time of a new move-in, tenant default insurance is an actual insurance policy which protects the landlord against the default of that tenant for nonpayment of rent.  If there is such a default, this insurance will hire and pay for the eviction attorney and court costs, up to $1500, and manage the eviction. More importantly, it will reimburse the landlord for the missing rent, from the day the original rent was due through the day the property is restored back to the landlord’s possession, up to six months (subject to a small deductible).  

Tenant default insurance has long been used in the United Kingdom and Australia as a way for landlords to protect their rental income, but has only recently been made available in California.  One such insurance program is the ReassureRent tenant default insurance provided by eRLY Insurance Solutions, Inc. Under that program, the average cost of the insurance is about 2.5% of annual premium, or the equivalent of about $50 per month (varying by location and monthly rental amount).  ReassureRent has quickly gained the attention and support of California apartment owner associations, including the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles, who see this as an emerging and valuable advancement in the protection of their landlord members

Tenant screening alone has been the primary method by which landlords have protected their rental income, and continues to be a valuable risk management tool.  Now that tenant default insurance has become available in California, prudent landlords are able to backstop that screening with a rental income insurance policy.  The new way of protecting rental income, by combining tenant screening with a tenant default insurance, is better than the old way of crossing your fingers and hoping for the best!

Eric D. Jarvis is the founder of ReassureRent tenant default insurance.  Eric is also an attorney, who, prior to his 20 years as an insurance professional, practiced landlord/tenant law in Southern California.  ReassureRent can be reached at (833) 5TENANT (833-583-6268), and at www.reassurerent.com/aptnews.

The Problem of Homelessness in America: Will Our Elected Officials Ever Stumble Across an Adequate Solution?

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By Daniel Yukelson, Executive Director of AAGLA

The homelessness problem has become more pervasive throughout California’s major cities and has now shocked our nation.  This condition will soon hopefully gain the attention of voters heading to the polls in the upcoming presidential election season.  So far, it has been a “joke” how the majority democratic leadership in Sacramento and our local elected officials serving city and county governments throughout the Southland have failed to put forth just one (let alone many) constructive solution to address homeless encampments, sanitary conditions on our streets, and the dire need for more shelters and “wrap-around” services such as mental health care.  Will our elected officials every understand the true causes of homelessness, address these causes, and address the problem head-on? Can our elected officials deliver the “right” solutions to homelessness, or will they continue to ride their favorite political wave and continue blaming the one segment of society that actually provides housing to people in our California communities, those of us that own and manage rental property?

There are numerous causes of homelessness, but elected officials never seem to acknowledge them, and that the solution to homelessness requires a multi-pronged approach.  Unless addressed strategically and quickly, we will see even more rapid growth in the homeless population here in California and the Southland. It seems that the most popular cause sighted by super Democratic majority electorate is the widening gap between wages and housing costs in California.  As a result, we hear solutions like higher minimum wage, increased government spending on housing, rent control, laws, eviction restrictions (e.g., “just cause” eviction), government paid-for attorneys (e.g., “right to counsel”), relocation payments, and now, even laws taxing property owners for vacant units.  Yet, more and more regulation, the old playbook of retreaded rent control and housing policies, have only caused more housing shortages by forcing us landlords to exit the rental housing business and by discouraging construction of new housing. These failed policies only caused the price of those few units that become available for rent to continue increasing.  It is a simple “supply and demand” thing! Remember your “Econ. 101” class!

Homelessness Defined

Homelessness is defined as living in housing that is below the minimum standards or lacks secure tenure. However, we most often see people as being homeless when they are: living on the streets, which is technically referred to as “primary homelessness” or moving between temporary shelters such as houses of friends, family and emergency accommodations referred to as secondary homelessness.  Tertiary homelessness refers to individuals living in private boarding houses without a private bathroom or security of tenure. The legal definitions of homeless varies from country to country, or among varying jurisdictions in the same country or region.

Poverty in America: A Brief History

Poverty has existed in some form in America since its founding in the late 1700’s.  By the beginning of the twentieth century, poverty was estimated at 40 percent of Americans as of the year 1900, which was largely due to two interrelated problems; (i.) an economy that was unable to sustain each of its citizens, and (ii) inequitable distribution of wealth – the middle class was virtually non-existent.  Back in the early 1900’s, there was no unemployment insurance, virtually no public welfare or pensions.

By the end of the 20th Century; however, things were different. By the early 1960’s, a welfare state was created out of the nation’s experiences during the Great Depression. Additionally, post-World War II America occupied a position of World dominance with the expansion of the American economy that dramatically raised living standards for most Americans. However, despite numerous policies aimed at reducing poverty among Americans, poverty still existed as a major economic problem.  By the early 1990s, the poor constituted 14.5 percent of the total American population – approximately 40 million citizens. Economists at the time noted that the “income gap” between rich and poor was the largest since at least 1947 when statistics started being kept. For the first time in United States history, America witnessed the emergence of a “class” of homeless people dating back to the mid-1970s.

Structural changes within the American economy over the last twenty years have also had a profound impact on the economic landscape for the “bottom” segment of American society as is evident in the shift from well-paying manufacturing jobs to minimum wage service jobs and temporary or part-time positions.  Some of this shift was caused by America’s integration into the world economy and various trade agreements entered during the last 30 years that have resulted in the job losses in the manufacturing sector. In addition, the labor market is increasingly segmenting workers by education and skills, and according to the Federal Department of Labor, approximately three-quarters of all jobs now require post-high school education for entry-level positions.  Accordingly, these structural changes have left more and more Americans behind and incapable of earning enough, even with multiple jobs.

The Extent of Homelessness

In 2005, an estimated 100 million (approximately 1 in 65 at the time) people worldwide were homeless and as many as 1.0 billion people lived as squatters, refugees or in temporary shelter, all lacking adequate housing. In the Western countries, the majority of homeless have been men (50%–80%), with single males particularly overrepresented.  As of 2015, the United States reported that there were 564,708 homeless people within its borders, one of the highest reported figures worldwide. These figures are likely underestimates as surveillance for and counting of the homeless population is challenging and highly inaccurate. In a recent count within the County of Los Angeles, the number of homeless people increased 12% year over year to almost 59,000, with reportedly more young and old residents and families on the streets.  The 2019 increase was registered just one year after the previous year’s count found a slight decrease in the county’s homeless population with approximately one-quarter of those counted stating they are recently homeless. More than likely, the accuracy of homeless counts taken during the previous year was lacking.

Homelessness counts taken between 2010 and 2017 apparently showed that the number of homeless people across Los Angeles County went from 38,700 to over 55,000 – an increase of 42%.  Many factors contributed to such large increases in homelessness, including Los Angeles County’s housing supply issues. Estimates made have concluded that Los Angeles County needs an additional 568,000 affordable housing units in order to meet the demand of its lowest-income renters.

New York has the largest population of homeless at 76,500 and the Bay Area is closely behind Los Angeles with 28,200 according to data collected by these cities.

The severity of homelessness fluctuates greatly by state with half of all people experiencing homelessness being from five states: California, New York, Florida, Texas and Washington.

What is Being Done About Homelessness?  Solutions Are Stagnated by Politics

California lawmakers have approved more than $2.0 billion in new state spending on housing and homelessness. That’s a huge number!  Although it is not sufficient. Most of this funding will target the state’s homeless population, including $650 million in grants for local governments to build and maintain emergency shelters and $100 million for wrap-around care for the state’s most vulnerable residents. That is roughly a 50% increase over the amount former Governor Jerry Brown approved to fight homelessness last year at the urging of California’s big-city mayors.  Another $500 million will go to quintuple the size of the state’s premier affordable housing financing fund, a long-sought after victory for low-income housing advocates who have sought an augmented funding source for years. The state Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program provides tax credits that subsidize the creation or rehabilitation of housing reserved for low-income residents.

Our state’s lawmakers and Governor Gavin Newsom have expressed their willingness to write sizeable checks to address the homeless situation, but unfortunately, the politicians are still fighting among themselves over who should receive the money and the “strings” that are to be attached.  Large-city mayors and lawmakers want homelessness grants directed towards the state’s largest 13 cities, while Governor Newsom wants to spread out the money to include counties. Major cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego argue that the largest share of the state’s homelessness epidemic is concentrated there, right in these cities’ backyards, while smaller cities and counties argue they too have been dealing with increasing homeless populations and lack resources to adequately address their situations.   The homelessness problem is growing ever worse and somebody, our Governor perhaps, needs to “step-up” and act quickly to address the crisis head-on. The money must begin flowing.

This past January, Governor Newsom in another well thought out move (just kidding folks) proposed a polemic idea that would withhold transportation funds to cities that do not build enough housing. His plan did not take into consideration reforming the California Environmental Quality Act (C.E.Q.A.) or provide tax incentives to facilitate construction or make any attempt to streamline the entitlement process – the Governor merely said to California’s cities “do as I say.”  Fortunately, there’s no certainty Governor Newsom’s ill-conceived proposal will ever see the light of day. Another Newsom proposal would speed construction of homeless shelters by circumventing environmental laws – this too is uncertain.

Unfortunately, all the bond money and tax revenues being poured into homelessness will barely make a dent.  Once one considers that the cost to build an affordable unit from land acquisition to entitlements and through construction can cost approximately $550,000 to $600,000 per unit, $1.0 Billion only builds about 1,700 to 1,800 units.  With an estimated 55,000 plus homeless people on the streets in Los Angeles County, the cost to solve homelessness in Los Angeles County alone could be more than $25.0 Billion. Accordingly, Newsom, Garcetti, Bonin and City Council members, County Supervisors and our State Legislators need to do some “out of the box” thinking rather than “out of their minds” thinking here on how to solve the issue in the most efficient and expeditious manner.  Housing solutions like “micro” units, dormitory style construction with shared kitchen and living areas, motel conversions, density bonuses and permit streamlining, and fast tracking are all solutions that must be a part of the “solve for homelessness” equation.

This stagnated response to the homelessness crisis and housing production thus far has been no more than the “same-old blame game” by singling out rental housing as “price gougers’ and proclaiming that evictions are the sole cause of homelessness in California.  Sadly, rental housing providers are politically expedient for our politicians and as a result, we have seen a tsunami of tenant protections being thrown upon us with more to follow. 

Why Do We Have Homelessness?

What politicians always fail to acknowledge is the significance of mental illness and substance abuse in the homeless community.  A recent U.S. Housing and Urban Development report noted that 45 percent of homeless suffer from mental illness, and according to a University of Pennsylvania report, about 50 percent suffer from alcohol or drug dependence.  

There are many other causes of homelessness too.  California continues to “early release” our state’s prisoners into local communities without providing housing or supportive services.  Our state’s foster care system is broken and jettison’s those turning 18 and exiting the program directly to the streets without further means of support.  Many homeless on our streets today were once abused at the hands of a parent or spouse. For women, domestic violence is a leading cause of homelessness. In addition, mental health policies of limiting involuntary commitment and allowing state hospitals to discharge patients with nowhere to go have been a complete disaster.  Moreover, many experts attribute contemporary homelessness to the increase in dysfunctional and single, female headed households. 

Unfortunately, our politicians ignore the obvious causes of homelessness and always seem to place blame on rental property owners for political expediency.  For example, a report by Los Angeles Country lists the top causes of homelessness among families were: (1) lack of affordable housing, (2) unemployment, (3) poverty, and (4) low wages.  We’re #1 on the list! Yet, very sadly, each of these four reasons are mostly caused by poorly thought-out and implemented housing policies and other regulations that have led to shortages of affordable housing and stifled job and wage growth.  And even more sadly, Los Angeles County ignores the main reasons people become homeless: drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, lack of supportive services, and domestic violence. As a further example, a report by several large city mayors omits entirely that substance abuse is one of causes of homelessness let alone the biggest cause.  In fact, in an entire 106-page report prepared for mayors Kevin Johnson (Sacramento), Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (Baltimore), Helene Schneider (Santa Barbara), and A.C. Wharton (Memphis) never once mentioned the word “drugs” or “alcohol.” But the mayors’ report did cover “rent burdened” renters and evictions as a primary cause of homelessness.

Los Angeles’ Mayor, Eric Garcetti, now facing a recall campaign due to his mishandling of the homelessness crisis, has pledged huge increases in spending to solve the issue. Los Angeles taxpayers should be aware that one of Mr. Garcetti’s proposed uses for the money is to pay homeless people to pick up their own trash.  Liberal Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin, who is facing a major homelessness crisis in his Council District that includes the Venice neighborhood, also has shared some brilliant ideas (just kidding again folks) on how to address the issue: “So if somebody is living on the street, they have to go to the bathroom, so let’s provide some toilets,” he said. “If somebody is living on the street, there is trash that they will generate, so let’s provide trash receptacles.  If somebody is living on the street, let’s provide showers.” You cannot make this stuff up! More recently, Councilmember Bonin has proposed taxing vacant units to raise money for homelessness – Mr. Bonin is obviously sniffing model glue again as he once did before he shut town two highly trafficked lanes along the ocean in Playa Del Rey.

Some communities throughout the Southland have begun to take matters into their own hands by creating task forces made up of volunteers committed to compassionately address homelessness issue.  It is these private, local solutions being supported by local contributions that seem to work. Smaller cities such as Beverly Hills and Santa Barbara, or local neighborhoods such as Koreatown in Los Angeles deploy trained community liaisons that patrol the streets and assist the homeless in getting off the street and into shelters.  Task force members and trained community liaisons’ approach and talk to homeless people to assist them and provide compassionate, effective services, and to assist them with finding housing and locating family members.

So far, the Democratic presidential candidates have been avoiding the topic of homelessness crisis.  However, as the crisis continues, these candidates will soon be forced provide answers for our state’s failed policies.  In June, President Donald Trump issued an executive order that establishes a White House Council to address housing affordability issues that will be chaired by Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson.  The White House Counsel mission will focus on “eliminating regulatory barriers to affordable housing.” There is no telling what impact President Trump’s executive order will have on the current homelessness crisis.

Final Thoughts

One of the central issues of homelessness in America is the need for “goal setting” of policies that are aimed at dealing with homelessness in America and throughout California and identifying the most effective methods for achieving the goals.  Our elected officials should look at what is being done in the City of Austin, Texas, which created a homelessness task force that meets twice per month, and after several meetings recruited two homeless individuals to serve on the task force.  The two homeless individuals, having had the unfortunate experience of living on the streets, offered incredible ideas. As a result of this type of “out of the box” thinking by the City of Austin, the city has created some very interesting solutions that are quickly being passed by the City Council and being implemented, including providing soap, toiletries and cosmetics to people living on the streets; providing locked storage lockers in areas where the homeless reside on streets so that the can secure their belongings while at appointments such as seeing a doctor or in many cases attending a job interview; and providing locations for the homeless to receive mail to access to computers.

Ultimately there is no “right” answer to the diverse causes and needs of the homeless population, and any significant progress in resolving them depends upon a collective response on the part of every American citizen – not by singling out one segment of our population: “Landlords.” What is needed is for our elected officials to recognize the root causes of homelessness and the creation of programs that address these causes head-on, and for social activism in our  local communities to take charge to address the problem of homelessness.

Daniel Yukelson is currently the Executive Director of The Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles (AAGLA).  As Certified Public Accountant, Yukelson began his career at Ernst & Young, the global accounting firm, and had served in senior financial roles principally as Chief Financial Officer for various public, private and start-up companies.  Prior to joining AAGLA, Yukelson served for 12 years as Chief Financial Officer for both Premiere Radio Networks, now a subsidiary of I-Heart Media, and 3 years for Oasis West Realty, the owner of the Beverly Hilton and Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills where he was involved with the development and construction of the Waldorf.