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LA County has a pilot program to house homeless in backyards. Here's how it works

Granny flats are in legal limbo after a LA County Superior Court judge ruled against a homeowner who built a second unit on his property. (not pictured)
Granny flats are in legal limbo after a LA County Superior Court judge ruled against a homeowner who built a second unit on his property. (not pictured)
Netsumo via Flickr

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There are 58,000 homeless people in L.A. County, but finding roofs for all of them – roofs that are affordable – will take some outside-the-box thinking.

One idea that's currently being piloted is building homeless housing in the backyards of other people's homes.

Willing homeowners would get a loan or cash from L.A. County for constructing such a unit on their property.

Take Two got details on how it works from Monique King-Viehland, executive director of the L.A. Community Development Commission which administers this pilot program.

What kind of units would be built?

They would be one-bedroom apartments.

They could either be built from the ground up, or from converting and permitting an existing structure like a detached garage.

Units would also need a separate entrance from the main house.

Why would this program be appealing to homeowners?

"This is an opportunity for you to be an active participant in this 'Everyone In' initiative around addressing homelessness in Los Angeles county," says King-Viehland.

In addition, she notes that homeowners will be able to receive rental income through the program.

What do homeowners get?

Up to a $75,000 loan for constructing a new unit, and up to $50,000 for converting an existing structure.

The interest stops accruing after five years in the program, and the loan is forgiven after 10 years.

Who is the ideal homeless person for these units?

They would be tenants who have an existing voucher to subsidize their rent, such as through L.A. County or Section 8, payable to the homeowner.

Do the homeowners get to screen the applicants?

The homeowners get final say in who rents on their property.

What if the home's ownership changes while the property is part of the program?

The original homeowner must pay the outstanding balance on the loan, and the tenant will get assistance to find a new home by the L.A. Community Development Commission.

This program is currently in the piloting phase. What's the timeline for its future?

The application process for the piloting phase is currently closed.

King-Viehland expects groundbreakings this fall and early next year, with tenants moving in by summer of 2019.

At that time, her department will evaluate how the process worked and make recommendations to county leaders on the program's expansion.

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