Prop HHH finally pays off — more than 6 years after it passed

Olga Rosario spent two and a half years without shelter in LA. In November, she moved to this new apartment in Sylmar, permanent supportive housing funded in part by Proposition HHH. Photo by Anna Scott.

The bathroom in Olga Rosario’s new studio apartment in Sylmar has an entire shelf dedicated to her seashell collection. “I love the beach,” Rosario, 62, says while showing off the place. In the kitchen area, she gestures across the room. “The sink by the window,” she says, “that’s what I’ve always wanted.”

Rosario used to walk by the building where she now lives when it was still under construction.

“Before it was finished, I would always come down San Fernando Road, and I would say, ‘Oh God, just put me over here,’” she says. “And look, I got placed where I was actually wanting to be placed.”

Rosario lives in a brand new, 56-unit apartment building called Silva Crossing, which offers formerly homeless, disabled tenants deeply subsidized rents and supportive services such as on-site counseling. It’s one of 56 buildings funded by Proposition HHH that opened or scheduled to open between the last quarter of 2022 and the end of 2023.

More than six years after LA voters passed that $1.2 billion homeless housing bond, LA is finally seeing the fruits of Prop HHH, with more than a dozen buildings scheduled to open every remaining quarter of this year. They also say the measure is on track to not only meet but exceed its goals. 

So why do many people think of Prop HHH as a failure?

What is Proposition HHH?

The voter-approved measure authorized city officials to issue up to $1.2 billion in general obligation bonds to create thousands of units of permanent supportive housing. Typically, that means rent-subsidized apartments that house some of LA’s neediest residents. 

The units are specifically for chronically homeless people with mental or physical disabilities – which is a lot of people. Of the nearly 42,000 people experiencing homelessness inside LA city limits by last count, more than a third fit those criteria.

Despite the urgent need for this housing, Prop HHH was always going to take a long time to come to fruition. The goal from the outset was to help the city create 10,000 new units over 10 years. 

Still, that didn’t stop city officials from making big promises at the time. In 2016, former City Councilman Jose Huizar (now awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to racketeering and tax evasion earlier this year), who represented Skid Row, told the Los Angeles Times that voters would see results from Prop HHH within six months. “And in two years, we’ll see a significant reduction in people living on the streets,” he told the paper. 

Instead, it took three years for the first HHH-funded building to open in late 2019, according to the Los Angeles Housing Department. And that’s part of Prop HHH’s big image problem.

What went wrong?

City officials admit that the high expectations around Prop HHH — fueled largely by people inside City Hall — never matched the reality of the measure.

“I think we got a little bit trapped by bad messaging,” says Ann Sewill, the general manager of the city’s Housing Department. “There was so much excitement around finally having resources. The fact that they weren't immediately generating places to live was a huge letdown for a lot of people.”

In fact, the math never made sense in terms of voters seeing a quick, visible reduction in street homelessness. While Prop HHH set out to essentially triple the city’s production of permanent supportive housing over a decade, that’s still only meeting a fraction of the need.

On top of that, city officials promised to fast-track HHH but failed to deliver. A series of audits by former City Controller Ron Galperin tore into the measure for moving too slowly and for projects being too costly. Even now, with HHH-funded buildings finally opening in large numbers, some say it didn’t have to take this long.

Former City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, who was part of the team that oversaw HHH’s rollout, said that officials could have given affordable housing developers more flexibility on how to spend the money, rather than simply plugging the dollars into the existing, Byzantine system for financing affordable housing projects. 

In the future, Santana says, if given another opportunity, LA could do better by fast-tracking the entitlement and permitting process. “And by placing the needs of the unhoused at the center,” he adds.

So what’s the good news?

Despite how long it took to get here, Los Angeles is finally now at the crest of Prop HHH-funded projects opening. 

According to the Housing Department, 37 buildings were open as of the end of 2022, containing nearly 2,300 permanent supportive housing units. This year, another 49 are scheduled to come online in total, with eight already open.

By 2026, housing officials say, the city is on track to open 10,519 new permanent supportive housing units with the help of Prop HHH, a number that also includes 1,635 apartments that didn’t use HHH money.

“It’s hard to defend yourself by saying, ‘It's coming soon, it's coming soon,’ says Sewill of the Housing Department, talking about the criticism of Prop HHH. “I think now we're in a position where we can say, ‘Not only is it happening, it’s more than what we said was going to happen.’”



Matt Guilhem


Anna Scott