UCLA Report Urges Acquiring Hotels for Use as Affordable Housing

The UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy recently published a second installment in its Housing Justice in the Time of COVID-19 series. The new report, Hotel California: Housing the Crisis, outlines a policy strategy for acquiring hotels for use as affordable housing. The report describes Project Roomkey, a current California program that places individuals experiencing homelessness in hotels. The authors argue that Los Angeles County should acquire and convert hotels into social housing and describe challenges that arise from using hotels as emergency housing.

The authors outline the immense need for additional shelter, noting that 365,000 renter households in Los Angeles County are at risk of eviction once eviction moratoriums are lifted. The initial report in the UCLA series estimated that between 36,000 and 120,000 of them could become homeless, adding to the already high number of unsheltered individuals residing in L.A. In response, California instituted Project Roomkey, an initiative that aims to place people experiencing homelessness in 15,000 hotel and motel rooms. While California was the first state to implement a statewide plan for emergency, non-congregate sheltering, the initiative is not without its limitations. Since its launch in April, Project Roomkey has only been able to procure 3,601 rooms. Staffing limitations, NIMBY opposition, and lack of hotel participation have impeded progress.

The authors advocate more hotels as housing, using Project Roomkey’s concept as a jumping-off point. They argue for the use of eminent domain and other strategies to acquire hotels and convert them to permanent, affordable housing. The authors argue that such a strategy could help more households access housing; provide greater housing stability compared to other emergency non-congregate plans; and offer more opportunities for community control and tenant power.

The report can be accessed at: https://bit.ly/3eSnn98