LA wants to use ‘master leasing’ approach to housing for homeless

By JOSE HERRERA

LOS ANGELES — The City Council moved forward Friday on plans to begin a “master leasing” program in the city — picking up an approach already in use by LA County to expand the number of available units for unhoused residents.

“Master leasing is the securing of all or part of an apartment building on a long-term lease, then subleasing the units to unhoused individuals or families while providing them with supportive services,” said Councilwoman Katy Yaroslavsky, who in December 2022 first proposed the city adopt the approach.

Friday, in a 14-0 vote, council members instructed staff to prepare contract terms and other benchmarks to implement the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s Master Leasing Program.

It will start with a pilot program in Yaroslavsky’s Fifth District, encompassing West L.A. neighborhoods or other feasible sites.

Yaroslavsky said that — with few interim housing sites for the general unhoused population available in her district — the master-leasing plan could address a big need, and do so swiftly.

She noted that, with new state funding, LA County and LAHSA launched a master-leasing initiative in November 2023 — and in about three months, they’ve been able to lease and fill 105 units, with another 530-plus units in the pipeline.

“It’s my hope that we will move with the appropriate urgency to quickly realize and get the program off the ground,” Yaroslavsky said.

The city administrative officer will be tasked with identifying funding for the pilot program, as well as for the possible expansion of the program citywide.

In addition, the city attorney and the CAO’s risk management team will examine the existing agreement between LAHSA and the county to further identify risks and liabilities, and plans to address any issues.

The city’s chief legislative analyst recently reported that any units leased and rented through the program beyond June 2027 will count toward the city’s “Alliance” settlement goals.

In March 2022, the city settled with the LA Alliance for Human Rights, establishing goals for the city to house a minimum of 60% of people living on the streets in each of the 15 council districts.

LA Alliance sued the city and county to compel elected officials to rapidly address the homelessness crisis, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The plaintiffs demanded the immediate creation of shelter and housing to get people off the streets, services and treatment to keep the unhoused in shelter, and regulation of public spaces to make streets, sidewalks and parks safe and clean.

In the settlement, it was agreed that the city would reduce encampments, establish deadlines and goals to document its progress, and return public spaces to their intended uses.

Earlier this month, the alliance filed a legal motion demanding the city face a nearly $6.4 million fine for its alleged lack of transparency and failure to reduce homeless encampments.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass called the motion “baseless,” noting the city brought thousands more unhoused Angelenos inside last year than in 2022.

In the settlement agreement, the city set a milestone of 3,700 new beds for the unhoused in the last fiscal year — but created only 1,748 beds in that period, the motion contends. The L.A. Alliance also alleges that while the city committed to create a total of 5,190 beds by the end of 2023, it has created only 2,810 — falling 2,380 short.

City Attorney Hydee Feldstein Soto said the city “was in full compliance with its obligations under the Settlement Agreement and that the LA Alliance has suffered no actual damages as a result of any delay.”

The alliance also sued the county on similar grounds.

The county’s settlement agreement would create 3,000 treatment beds for unsheltered people with mental illnesses and addictions, subsidize 450 “board and care” beds, and establish deadlines and targets to document its efforts.

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