Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti answers viewers questions on affordable housing, homelessness

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti returned for a new edition of Ask the Mayor, answering questions submitted by viewers. Questions focused on affordable housing and homelessness.

The mayor was celebrating the opening of the first Measure HHH bond housing which voters approved three years ago. Garcetti said groundbreakings and openings will accelerate now.

"We've doubled the number of people we're housing," but without state and federal help, "we won't get there," Garcetti said.

Mayor Garcetti will meet with HUD Secretary Ben Carson in Washington next week, after the Trump Administration signaled the possibility of federal land and funding for L.A.'s homeless housing.

"I won't dismiss anybody's help, no matter how they ask. Whether it's the President of the United States, whether it's our governor or local officials from a neighboring city. This is too important to me and we have to make sure we don't weaponize this in a partisan way," Garcetti said. He concluded, "This is a human issue. I will continue to be a very loud voice on this, because to me, this is the defining crisis of our time."

Garcetti talked about housing affordability, saying one reason housing is so expensive is 20 years of not building. The controversial SB50 transit density bill is back, allowing apartments in many single-family neighborhoods, The mayor said there's a way communities can avoid SB50 and decide their own future.

"That's why I'm updating every single one of the community plans with the community. Let's say how we want to grow. Not if we want to grow. Because we know when we don't grow, what happens. People on the street and prices go up. But you can decide in your neighborhood, not Sacramento," he said.

A key component in understanding of the scope of homelessness is the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count Jan. 21 through 23. Eight thousand volunteers are needed. Mayor Garcetti will be one of them. "It's critically important to know how many people are homeless and sheltered or unsheltered. What are the characteristics of them? How many single women? How many families? How many veterans? So, it's a baseline for our work. Also, to see the progress and track how much we've done." It's not too late to volunteer: go to Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count

In time for Monday's Martin Luther King holiday, the mayor planned to announce a new city commission, the Office of Civil and Human Rights.

"It's where people can take those violations of civil rights in our city, whether it's racial-based, gender-based, sexual orientation, religious-based," Garcetti said. "We've seen anti-Semitism and Islamophobia go up. This is going to be a place where we say, 'not here in L.A.' Everybody belongs, and that's what Dr. King fought for."
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