This column originally appeared in Business Life.
If business leaders thought we could take a break from ballot measures after the busy November 2016 ballot, it’s time to think again. In Los Angeles County, we are facing a steady and relentless increase in the number of our neighbors who find themselves without a home. This is a human crisis, and as leaders of our community, business owners must help lead the fight against homelessness. It also reflects an economic problem, as rising housing costs push our employees further away from their workplaces.
There are two boxes you can check in March to help address this issue. The first way you can help is by voting ‘no’ on Measure S, a short-sighted and extremely damaging proposal to effectively ban new housing from being built in the City of Los Angeles.
Measure S will impose a two-year moratorium on almost all development in Los Angeles. It will cost us over 12,000 jobs and nearly $2 billion in economic output - each year. It will put people out of work and make life even harder for families who will have a longer daily commute.
The San Fernando Valley will be hit especially hard. The Valley is a place which many young families would like to call home. We’re more affordable than other parts of Los Angeles, and we have exciting new developments with amenities such as cafes and shops within walking distance. We’re investing in transit infrastructure to make it even more attractive to the millennial generation. Putting a halt on the Valley’s ability to welcome this new generation of residents will have repercussions for years to come.
Proponents of Measure S don’t care about our employees who are struggling to afford a home for their families, or homeless individuals. They say they care about neighborhoods and traffic, but the truth is that traffic increases when people have longer commutes to work because they can’t afford housing close by. This is a crisis of workforce, market-rate housing being out of the reach of middle class families.
Measure S makes life harder for everyone, as families who can afford it spend more of their income for a decent home. Families who can’t afford it will be forced into a longer commute. And as rents continue to increase, families facing one crisis too many will find themselves with no other options but to sleep in their cars or on the street.
If you are concerned about homelessness, the second box to check is ‘yes’ on Measure H. Measure H is a quarter-cent sales tax which will support homelessness services in LA County. Last year, VICA supported Measure HHH, a LA City bond measure which will allow thousands of new units of housing to be built for homeless people. Measure H will help provide the wraparound services which help keep people rebuild their lives. Measure H is the critical next step to ending chronic homelessness in Los Angeles.
Between the bond measure we passed last year, a vote against Measure S, and a vote for Measure H, business leaders have an opportunity to address the issues leading to increased rates of homelessness. This is a time for business leaders to address this crisis affecting our communities.