Trump says he knows how to cut San Francisco’s homeless population in half, but California doesn’t see the same solutions
President Donald Trump’s advisers say in a new report that California could cut San Francisco’s homeless population in half by making the city’s building codes more like the ones found in development-friendly Arizona.
Deregulating housing industries and building affordable homes is Trump’s solution to reducing homelessness
The report, called the State of Homelessness in America, urges California and other Democratic-majority states to deregulate their housing industries in the interest of building more affordable homes.
“The president’s very concerned with the homelessness crisis in California,” said Council of Economic Advisers acting chairman Tom Philipson. “The Trump administration is working to reverse the failed policies of the past.”
The council released the report a day before Trump is scheduled to visit California. It also says Los Angeles’ unsheltered homeless population would fall by 40 percent if the city follows its recommendations. The report offered broad criticisms of California housing policies but did not offer a specific pathway to fixing what it considers “heavy regulation.”
Democratic leaders expressed skepticism about the White House report and its timing. They’ve been working to free up money for shelters and affordable housing in addition to nudging cities to allow more construction.
“I’m suspicious of their findings, and even more suspicious of their motives. It’s easy to pop in from thousands of miles away and point fingers, but there are many reasons why housing is expensive in California. Yes, we know we need to make it easier for affordable housing developers to be able to build, but there’s a lot more to it.”said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who is chairman of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s council on homelessness.
The White House notes four of the five U.S. cities with the highest rates of homelessness are in California, and nearly half of all unsheltered homeless people are found in the Golden State.
California was home to about 130,000 homeless people in January 2018, according to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. The report contends that other warm-weather states, such as Florida and Arizona, have “low” homelessness rates in contrast to California.
The Trump administration blames California’s crisis partly on police tolerance of people “sleeping on the street”
Trump’s solution to the problem: undoing regulations of the housing market that are driving up home prices and encouraging local law enforcement to crack down on “street activities.”
The document describes problematic housing regulations as rent control, “excessive energy and water-efficiency mandates,” maximum-density allowances, historic preservation codes and “cumbersome” permitting processes.
Relaxing those restrictions, the council argues, would ease burdens to construction and lead to lower housing costs.
“Deregulating housing markets with excessive regulations would result in major reductions in homelessness in a number of key metropolitan areas. Homelessness would fall by 54% in San Francisco. It would fall by 40 percent in Los Angeles.”Philipson said.
California Sen. Kamala Harris, one of Trump’s potential 2020 Democratic opponents, echoed the need for a more wholistic approach in a statement Tuesday. The former California attorney general said the White House’s suggestion to enlist the help of law enforcement “is counterproductive and ignores the fact that long-term solutions are required to successfully reduce homelessness.”
“If the administration is serious about addressing this issue, they would not be pushing for $9.6 billion in cuts to critical Federal housing programs while rolling back Obama-era policies designed to increase shelter and housing for vulnerable communities, including our veterans,”Harris continued.
The report differentiates between sheltered and unsheltered homeless individuals and then compares the rates of unsheltered homelessness in warm-weather states.
According to their findings, rates are higher on the West Coast than in more conservative states, such as Arizona and Florida; and four of the five American cities with the highest rates of homelessness – San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santa Rosa, and San Jose – are in California.
Philipson declined to comment on reports that the administration had sent aides to California to look at federal facilities as potential housing units for the homeless. He also declined to respond to Newsom’s statement to the president on Monday.