Lack of affordable housing in ‘superstar cities’ like LA exacerbate homelessness

Homeless encampments line Wilshire Blvd. in Mid City, Los Angeles, CA. Photo by Amy Ta/KCRW

LA’s growing homelessness crisis was the major issue in last year’s mayoral race — so much so that newly-elected Mayor Karen Bass has already declared a state of emergency, and directed local agencies to fast-track affordable housing and shelter applications.

LA and other big coastal cities don’t have enough affordable housing, which is the key driver of homelessness, argues Atlantic Staff Writer Jerusalem Demsas.

“It's not really poverty that leads to homelessness. … There are a lot of poor people in Utah, there are a lot of poor people in Detroit and Philadelphia, but we don't see the kinds of homelessness that we do in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, DC, New York City, Boston, because those areas do have affordable housing options,” she says.

She adds, “We're at the point where it may not even make sense for someone to take a high-paying job in Los Angeles because the amount in which they have to pay for rent is so high that the increase in wages does not actually make up for it.”