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LA City Council debates tax measures to fund homelessness fix

LA City Hall
LA City Hall
Brian Weed/Flickr Creative Commons

The Los Angeles City Council laid plans to put a tax measure on the November ballot, but council members could not settle on what kind of tax stood the best chance of getting voter support.

In Tuesday's meeting, the council discussed putting a general obligation bond or a parcel tax in front of voters. Both taxes are being considered to help generate funds for the city to confront its growing homelessness problem. A city report has found that it would take more than $1.8 billion dollars over the next 10 years to adequately address the problem.

Either tax would need the support of two-thirds of Los Angeles voters in November to pass. The bond would generate more than a billion dollars and would likely be paid back by L.A. city property owners through their property taxes. The funds generated would specifically be used for housing for the homeless.

A parcel tax would be charged on real estate transactions in the city. Money generated from it could be used for both housing and homeless services, like rehabilitation and mental health services. While the parcel tax comes with more flexibility in how the funds can be spent, polling done by the offices of Councilmen José Huizar and Marqueece Harris-Dawson have shown that the bond is favored by voters.

"I'm conflicted," Councilman David Ryu said. "I love the flexibility of the parcel tax, but I do know it'll be a little harder to pass. But at the same time the general obligation bond goes to the heart of the matter."

The council must decide on one of the measures by the end of June in order to get it qualified for the November ballot. Council President Herb Wesson urged the council to act in time.

"If we don't have something tee'd up and ready to go, then we'll miss an opportunity," said Herb Wesson, council president. "My focus is on us delivering to 27,000 people who sleep on the streets every night who are depending on us. I want to drive down the streets of this city and see change."

The city's Rules, Elections, Intergovernmental Relations and Neighborhoods Committee will next make final amendments to both measures and send them back to the council for a decision by the end of the month.