Tax the Rich, House the Homeless

Levying the United to House LA initiative tax on properties like these, advocates point out, would enable Los Angeles to keep 475,000 renters annually from going homeless and create new housing units for 69,000 people over the next decade.

And these gains would come from a tax that only impacts about 3 percent of real estate transactions within the Los Angeles city limits. This past May, the typical Los Angeles home sold went for $910,000. Based on that figure, the selling price on the city’s typical home would essentially have to quintuple before triggering the United to House LA mansion tax.

Without that trigger in place, affordable housing advocates believe, Los Angeles faces a “humanitarian crisis.” The city’s Economic Roundtable, for its part, is projecting an 86-percent in homelessness over the next four years.

“We haven’t seen,” notes one local activist behind United to House LA, the Alliance for Community Transit’s Laura Raymond, “our local government take the immediate and bold action that is needed,”.

That local government will be coming under the direction of a new mayor after Election Day this November, and the two candidates vying for the city’s top spot somewhat symbolize the political dynamics that have left Los Angeles so deeply divided.

As of earlier this month, mayoral candidate Rick Caruso, a billionaire real estate developer, had spent almost $34 million to make the November runoff, over 11 times the outlays of his mayoral rival, U.S. representative Karen Bass, a former South L.A. community organizer.

Caruso’s claim to fame: He developed Los Angeles’ “most iconic luxury shopping centers.” On the campaign trail, Caruso has been pledging to “clean up” homelessness — and skipping serious public forums about the city’s housing crisis.

Those forums are showcasing the broad coalition behind the United to House LA initiative, an effort that’s enlisted groups that range from the Los Angeles Federation of Labor and individual unions to housing organizations and the ACLU of Southern California. In all, some 150 local groups have so far joined in on the campaign.

The opposition to the House LA initiative is building around funding from the city’s megadevelopers and various other property interests. These groups, says Alison Vu of United to House LA, “don’t want millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share.”

Meanwhile, nationwide, the distribution of housing wealth remains anything but fair. Between 2010 and 2020, the National Association of Realtors reports, housing wealth overall increased $8.2 trillion to a $24.1 trillion. A whopping 71 percent of that jump went to high-income households that make over triple their area’s most typical take-home. Low-income households realized just 4 percent.

Sam Pizzigati co-edits His latest books include The Case for a Maximum Wage and The Rich Don’t Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph over Plutocracy that Created the American Middle Class, 1900-1970. Twitter: @Too_Much_Online.

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