LA has 10,000 motel rooms—and they could be used to house the homeless

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With the number of homeless people in Los Angeles rising sharply, city officials are scrambling to find housing for the nearly 35,000 residents of the city who lack permanent addresses. One possible source of shelter: the city’s many underused hotels and motels.

According to a new report from the city’s planning department, LA is home to at least 382 motels with a combined 10,259 guest rooms. Most of those are decades old (the average year of construction is 1944) and small enough to be reconfigured as makeshift housing without significant financial investment.

Under a plan to convert them into temporary or supportive housing complexes, the city would ease regulatory barriers that could prevent motel owners from converting guest rooms to housing. The units in the building would also not be subject to LA’s rent control laws, though in order to take advantage of the incentives, property owners would have to partner with local agencies to provide rental subsidies and on-site services to residents.

How many motel owners will choose to participate in the program (assuming it’s eventually adopted by the City Council) remains to be seen. The planning report notes that the number of units that could be made available as housing will depend on how many resources local agencies can spare.

Another potential obstacle could be hesitant neighbors. Earlier this year, Temple City residents successfully blocked the conversion of a local motel to housing for homeless residents and veterans, with some arguing it would bring “drugs [and] violence” to the area.

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