Stories

The Hometown Tour: Los Angeles

Mr. Herb J. Wesson, Jr. in conversation with Axios' Ina Fried.
Herb J. Wesson, Jr., President of the Los Angeles City Council, in conversation with Axios' Ina Fried. Photo: Shane Karns for Axios

The big picture: Last Thursday, Axios' Ina Fried hosted a series of conversations in Los Angeles, California, to discuss solutions to the ongoing housing and homelessness crisis in the city. The conversation focused on the interconnected nature of issues around housing, including mental health, infrastructural needs, and job stability.

Ron Galperin, Controller of the City of Los Angeles

Ron Galperin, 19th Controller of the City of Los Angeles, in conversation with Ina Fried.
Controller of the City of Los Angeles, Ron Galperin, discussing housing on the Axios stage. Photo: Shane Karns for Axios

Controller of the City of Los Angeles, Ron Galperin, discussed the need for both short and long-term solutions. With the time-intensive nature of building more housing, he stressed the need for smaller, more agile programs to more directly address everyday needs like hygiene and mental health issues.

  • On the the pressing nature of the crisis: "I think that the issue of housing and the lack thereof and of homelessness in Los Angeles is really the critical issue of this moment in Los Angeles...we have people who are dying on our streets. They need to be given housing, they need to be given a variety of options much more quickly than how it's happened so far."
  • "It's not just about the lack of housing... It's also about issues of mental health. It's issues of drug and alcohol addiction. It's the prison-to-street cycle that we see...So there's a lot of factors. But housing is a huge and central part of it."

Elvina Beck, Founder and CEO of PodShare

Elvina Beck discusses her company, PodShare.
Elvina Beck, Founder and CEO of PodShare stresses the need for more varied housing options. Photo: Shane Karns for Axios

Elvina Beck, Founder and CEO of the co-housing startup, PodShare, highlighted the lack of available, short-term housing for those who depend on unstable or freelance income.

  • What the current housing market lacks: "What do you do when you just come into a city and you don't know a single soul and don't have any family? There's no affordable options and the flexibility of payment plans helps people."
  • How and why people use PodShare: "On average [people] are staying two weeks [in a PodShare]...We have folks that are using [PodShare] as permanent housing, and we have folks that use this as a jumping off point to find their permanent housing.
  • On the need for flexible housing in the gig economy: "[People] go out and they pay 50 dollars a night just to stay every single day...Because where can you go that doesn't require proof of income or security deposit?... There just isn't something that's affordable, shared, and not specifically aimed at the homeless."
  • "I really want to push the cities to understand what living together really means"

Ben J. Winter, Chief Housing Officer for the Mayor’s Office of Los Angeles

Ben J. Winter on stage with Axios' Ina Fried.
Ben J. Winter, Chief Housing Officer for the Mayor’s Office of Los Angeles discusses the Mayor's Office priorities with Axios' Ina Fried. Photo: Shane Karns for Axios

Chief Housing Officer for the Mayor’s Office of Los Angeles, Ben J. Winter, discussed the the four main priorities of the Los Angeles' Mayor's Office in regards to addressing housing and homelessness in the city.

  • One: "How do we grow the supply of housing overall to meet market demand that's been building up over decades that really is putting an upwards pressure on rent?"
  • Two: "[Building] housing...in an inclusive and equitable way so that we're building for everyone not just luxury condos or rentals."
  • Three: "Stability not [just] affordability. How can we enhance stability in the rental market to help people stay in their homes?"
  • Four: "How do we strengthen that homeless safety net overall so that we can catch people when they fall out of the housing market altogether?"

Herb J. Wesson, Jr., President of the Los Angeles City Council

Herb J. Wesson, Jr., President of the Los Angeles City Council stressed the need for more neighborhood-specific programs, with more aggressive outreach to recruit community and religious leaders in tackling these problems.

  • On a grassroots, community-centric approach: "We can't wait on the federal government, the city, the county, the state. This is our issue. This is our house; this is our home. We've got to fix our problems and we have to incorporate our community partners as well."
  • On the critical need for safe parking programs: "I think we can partner with churches and other organizations within the community because we have a lot of individuals that are sleeping in cars...And it's hard to get somebody when they are sleeping in their car -- which is the most valuable asset that they have at that time -- to come stay in a shelter or a bridge home project because there's nowhere to keep that most valuable asset safe."

Thank you Wells Fargo for sponsoring this event.