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Will the Hotels be Forced to Rent Out Rooms to the Homeless People? by Maxim Lamash

Will the Hotels be Forced to Rent Out Rooms to the Homeless People?

by Maxim Lamash

Los Angeles has one of the fastest-growing hotel industries. Despite bringing prosperity to the city through tourism and job opportunities, some hotels burden the social services contributing to the ongoing homelessness crisis. The City Council of Los Angeles decided to take a crack at solving the problem by mandating hotels to rent-out vacant rooms to homeless people. If the new ordinance passes, the hotels will be required to report their vacancies regularly to the city's Housing Department. In return, the Housing Department will issue vouchers valued at "fair market rate" that homeless people will be able to use for lodging in the vacant rooms. The hotels will be prohibited from refusing to take the vouchers for payment and denying the homeless people entry.

On August 5, 2022, the City Council unanimously decided to allow the public to vote on the ordinance in 2024. Even though the City Council could have bypassed the public vote and implemented the ordinance, they refused to do so. Unite Here Local 11 is backing the initiative and have gathered enough signatures to put the ordinance on the ballot.

The hotel industry is not enthusiastic about the ordinance and is expected to mount significant opposition. The central premise of the hotel industry is that it will “unfairly burden hotels and hurt their ability to do business.” Northeast Los Angeles Hotel Owners Association issued a public statement claiming that the operations of the hotels will be significantly affected by the ordinance. Hotel owners acknowledge the housing crisis but believe their participation in the program should be voluntary rather than mandatory. Since hotels were not responsible for the housing crisis, they do not think forcing them to remedy the situation is fair. Additionally, an independent hospitality insurance broker expressed the concerns of insurance companies pulling coverage because homeless people bring separate implications from regular hotel guests.

Despite the Hotel industry opposition, numerous groups support the ordinance. Many Housing Groups, Progressives, and Unite Here Local 11 believe hotel operators are unfairly prejudicial towards homeless people. An organizer, Carly Kirchen of the Unite Here Local 11, wants the people to know that most homeless people are not mentally sick and dangerous to society. Additionally, Kirchen argues that his myth misrepresents people suffering from the crisis and points to the fact that hotel employees represent a significant portion of people affected by the housing crisis and facing eviction.

The people will vote on the ordinance on March 25, 2024. As of this moment, the proposition has some significant caveats. No source of funding has been allocated for the ordinance. According to a report from the city attorney's office, the ordinance's existence is contingent on securing funding by July 1, 2023. Additionally, there are no estimates or economic data to project approximate costs for the measure. However, this may not be the pivotal issue since many federal, state, nonprofit organizations, and local sources of funding for emergency housing could be used to fund the new program. If this proposal passes, it would be the first significant attempt to address homelessness after the Covid-19 pandemic.