On Friday, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously decided to add a proposal to the March 2024 ballot that, if passed, would require hotels to house homeless people. Supporters gathered over 126,000 signatures, forcing the council to either enact the proposal immediately or put it on the ballot for voters to decide.
Councilmember John Lee told KABC-TV, “I don’t have an option to vote no. My options are either to adopt it outright – which is not what we want to do – or send it to the ballot.”
If the ordinance passes, it would require hotels to notify the city every day by 2 p.m. of the number of empty rooms available for the night. The Los Angeles Housing Department would pay the hotel a rate for each guest they house. The homeless would be given vouchers to take into the establishments. Hotels would be prohibited from denying housing to anyone with a voucher.
“I always have an issue when the city tells businesses how they need to run their business. And so this is just an extreme measure,” Lee said.
The initiative is similar to Project Roomkey, which was launched in March 2020 during the height of COVID. The project asked hotels to volunteer their empty rooms to the homeless. Hotels that chose to participate were given extra resources to handle the guests.
President of the Northeast Los Angeles Hotel Owners Association Ray Patel stated, “We don’t have what we are calling ‘Wraparound Services,’ which were provided during the pandemic to the hotels that volunteered to accept hotel vouchers. Those 'Wraparound Services' included mental health services, food services, 24-hour security that was trained to deal with the unhoused.”
Hotel and tourism officials are concerned that hotels will not be provided with the resources they need to ensure the safety of guests and workers.
Supporters of the proposal are confident that this will provide temporary homes for the unhoused and get people off of the street.
The ordinance also addresses new hotel developments and their “impact on affordable housing, transit, social services, employees and local businesses.” Hotel developments will not receive a permit if the planning commission believes they could negatively impact the affordability in the city.