FACT CHECK: Is Homelessness Up Nearly 50 Percent In Los Angeles Since 2013?

Shane Devine | Fact Check Reporter

CNN anchor Jake Tapper said that homelessness in Los Angeles has risen nearly 50 percent since Mayor Eric Garcetti took office in 2013.

Verdict: False

Tapper cited an outdated source – homeless levels have risen 37 percent since 2013.

Fact Check:

Garcetti, who has campaigned for Democrats in recent months, joined Tapper on “State of the Union” to discuss the upcoming midterm elections.

“Some critics might say hey, Mayor Garcetti, why are you traveling the country campaigning for Democrats in the midterms, when you have this huge crisis in your own backyard?” Tapper said Oct. 21. “Homelessness is nearly up 50 percent in your city since you became mayor, according to The Los Angeles Times.”

Tapper was citing an article from The Los Angeles Times published in February 2018. “Homelessness in the city of Los Angeles has risen every year since Garcetti took office in 2013. Over the course of his tenure, it is up 49 percent,” they wrote.

The LA Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) provided The Daily Caller with data showing that homeless levels did rise 49 percent in LA, from 22,993 homeless individuals in 2013 to 34,189 in 2017.

Since the article was published, however, LAHSA released updated figures for 2018. The numbers went down to 31,516 homeless individuals, lowering the increase from 49 percent to 37 percent since 2013. (Garcetti assumed office in July 2013.)

LAHSA also publishes figures for the broader county area. Homeless levels in LA County rose from 39,461 homeless persons in 2013 to 55,048 in 2017. It then decreased to 52,765 in 2018, a change from 2013 levels of 34 percent.

What has been driving the rise in homelessness? “I think the causes are pretty clear and explicit,” Peter Lynn, executive director of LAHSA, told The New York Times. “Los Angeles is absolutely at the center of a crisis of housing affordability.”

LAHSA says that rents in LA County have increased almost three times faster than renters’ incomes over the last two decades, and the California Housing Partnership estimates that LA County needs 568,255 more affordable rental units to assist low-income individuals.

Homeless levels are also associated with substance abuse and what Garcetti has called a “staggering mental health crisis.” LAHSA found that 28 percent of homeless adults in LA had a serious mental disability and 17 percent had a substance use disorder.

Two referendums passed in 2016 and 2017 increased the amount of funds dedicated to helping the homeless. The 2016 referendum, Proposition HHH, will invest $1.2 billion in the construction of thousands of housing units over the next 10 years. Measure H, which went into effect October 2017, raised the sales tax by 0.25 percent in much of LA County to provide, among other uses, mental health and addiction services to the homeless.

Others have brought forward different solutions. Gavin Newsom, the lieutenant governor of California, wants to give tax credits to landlords, developers and employers who provide assistance to the homeless. Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox has suggested taking steps to reduce the cost of living in California, including a repeal of the gas tax.

Nationally, the Department of Housing and Urban Development reported that 553,742 people experienced homelessness on a single night in 2017. California had the most of any state, with 134,278 homeless people, or 24 percent of the national total.

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Shane Devine

Fact Check Reporter