Skid Row Housing Trust breaks ground on mixed-use project

Skid Row Housing Trust breaks ground on their New Genesis development March 30, in downtown Los Angeles, Calif.
Skid Row Housing Trust breaks ground on their New Genesis development March 30, in downtown Los Angeles, Calif.
KPCC/Molly Peterson

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In downtown Los Angeles, the Skid Row Housing Trust has broken ground on a new mixed-use project that will provide housing and support services for a hundred formerly homeless people.

Federal economic stimulus money, state and city housing money, and local business support have combined to help the housing trust pay for the New Genesis project. It'll include 98 efficiency apartments for people who were recently homeless.

The development also sets aside some apartments for people whose jobs pay less than $37,000 a year. L.A. deputy mayor for economic policy Austin Beutner said there’s an urgent need for projects like this.

"Los Angeles, as a community, we have the largest homeless population in the country," he says, "almost 50,000 people. Without a roof over their head, without a home we receive less than half the per capita funding at a federal level than Chicago or New York."

Beutner said one way to change that figure could be to demonstrate to federal authorities that L.A. knows how to succeed with projects like New Genesis.

The Skid Row Housing Trust's Molly Rysman said the federal formula for homeless support services doesn't help. A city's poverty rate is half the factor that influences a city's share. But she added that the other factors are the age of the housing available and whether the population of a metropolitan area is in decline.

"And neither of those things have to do with homelessness," she says, "and of course Los Angeles has a newer housing stock and we've got population coming in. So we do really poorly in terms of the points for our fair share."

Rysman said projects like this save money the city might have spent on expensive interventions.

A recent study co-sponsored by the L.A. Economic Roundtable and city housing authorities indicated that moving one person off the streets into housing with support services prevents around $14,000 in spending on emergency care and policing.

The New Genesis apartments on Main Street near 5th in downtown L.A. will be open for business later this year.