Legal Obligation on Homelessness Must Include All Parties to the Issue

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

The governor’s Council of Regional Homeless Advisors called for a legal obligation for local governments to provide housing for the homeless under the threat of penalties. But, it should not be just the local governments that are held accountable under such a legal mandate. The homeless themselves must cooperate in such a program and the accountability measures must protect taxpayers who will be called on to fund any expanded housing program.

Simply put, under a legal mandate for obligating local governments to fund increased housing for the homeless, the homeless must accept that housing—a step in the “right to shelter” debate requiring government to build housing while also requiring the homeless to use that housing the governor’s homeless advisors did not take in their recommendations. Further, if the taxpayers spend money to make more housing a reality—something understood must happen in the recommendations that were made—then the mandated accountability should not punish taxpayers.

Declaring that local governments would pay a penalty if they did not provide the housing required means a likely monetary penalty, which is tax money. If local officials are required to construct housing and they fail and fines are levied as punishment by a court, it’s the taxpayers that pay the fine though the violating jurisdiction’s tax collections.

That’s the way it is in all cases when governments are forced to pay a fine or pay off a lawsuit when a government official is found at fault. Let accountability fall at the feet of those who actually violate the mandate. Should we reduce salaries or find some other form of punishment for lack of accountability that doesn’t create a double-whammy on taxpayers: pay taxes for housing then cover the penalty if the housing is not built?

The point here is, calling for legal mandates to deal with the homeless problem goes beyond the players that the governor and his task force called out yesterday to help make the homeless crisis go away. The homeless should also be held accountable to buy into such a program meaning once the housing is built they must use it. A plus to this requirement is that the homeless occupying the housing will have access to services that many need.

Further, if local governments fail in their obligations under the proposed requirement it shouldn’t be the taxpayers who suffer the consequences.

For a full report on the proposal put out by the governor’s homelessness task force see CalMatter’s article written by Matt Levin and Jackie Bott, which you can find here.

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