Some thoughts on homelessness

Yesterday’s LA Times had a piece about advocates for the homeless challenging LA’s ban on sleeping on the beach.

This got me thinking about the situation in Venice and around Skid Row downtown, where thousands of homeless people sleep outside, on public property.

As a repositioner of apartment buildings, I have a special obligation to be sensitive about homelessness. After all, what we do inarguably contributes to higher rents, and therefore increases the risk of homelessness.

Fixing homeless nation-wide would not be that expensive. In 2012, there were approximately 633,000 homeless people. Assuming $150k / dwelling unit constructed, you’re looking at around $100B, which would be 2.6% of this year’s federal budget.

The reason we don’t is that doing so would screw up the incentive for people a few notches up the ladder. Imagine you’re working two jobs to cloth, feed and house your family, and then someone else, who isn’t, gets free housing. You’d feel like a chump. And, at the margins, plenty of people like you would quit working and move into government-provided housing.

I have no idea how to resolve this dilemma, and neither does anyone else, which is why homelessness isn’t solved.

But I’ll tell you what is not the solution: Allowing people without homes to annex public property for their sleeping quarters, either on the beach or downtown.

Public property is for the enjoyment of the whole public. It’s not ok for anyone to arrogate to himself the right to possess any part of it.