Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson issued a statement on behalf of President Donald J. Trump urging California state authorities to work together to change their policies because they are responsible for the fact that so many people are living on the streets of the cities in the Golden State.
“About half of America’s homeless people are in California, a level nearly 4 times higher” than in the rest of the country, Carson began writing in response to a request for new funding to combat the crisis from California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and Sacramento Democratic Mayor Darrell Steinberg, among others.
Los Angeles alone has 19% of the homeless in the United States, he added, emphasizing, “To leave the homeless without shelter, without sanitation, and without security is an unacceptable human tragedy.”
In their letter they ask for more “federal dollars” for California from hardworking American taxpayers but “fails to admit that your state and local policies have played a major role in creating the current crisis,” he said.
Over-regulation of housing
Carson said the homeless rate in California has skyrocketed compared to other states because of the “overregulated housing market, its inefficient allocation of resources, and its policies that have weakened law enforcement,” he said.
“Excessive regulation of the housing market leads to increased costs and increased indigence rates,” he described, specifying, “High housing costs in California have pushed the average HUD [Department of Housing and Urban Development] rent subsidy 38% above the national average.”
“To reduce this crisis, California must reduce its regulatory burdens on housing,” he said, citing the report of the Council of Economic Advisers released this week, because California cannot expect to get out of this problem simply by using more federal funds, he said.
At this point, he recalled that President Trump had signed an executive order establishing the White House Council on Eliminating Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing to work with states and local leaders to “identify strategies and policies that reduce these housing barriers.
The issue of mental health and weak law enforcement
In addition to the mismanagement of regulations, Carson’s letter notes that California has “undermined the ability of police officers to enforce quality of life laws, eliminate camps, and connect our most vulnerable populations with the support services they need to get off the streets.”
Carson also urged California’s Democratic leaders to “address the issue of mental health,” noting that while 28 percent of homeless people were reported to suffer from “serious mental illness” in 2018, California has reduced hospital beds for the treatment of acute psychiatric disorders by 30 percent since 1995, he said.
The Department of Health and Human Services announced that states that generate new hospital projects to care for acute mental illness or treat individuals would receive additional federal funds, which California has not yet opted for, but can do, Carson said.
Border security and drug trafficking
The letter also discusses California’s sanctuary policies, saying, “Illegal and inadmissible aliens are increasing the demand for housing and exhausting resources,” explaining that the Trump administration is addressing the problem by improving border security to reduce drug trafficking.
“Reducing and treating drug use is also imperative to resolve this crisis,” the neurosurgeon and psychologist also noted, specifying that they are making great strides in cutting off drug supplies to the United States, treating people who suffer from addiction and preventing more people from becoming addicted.
In 2018, death rates from overdoses “dropped for the first time in decades” after increasing 21% in 2016, and 10% in 2017, he said.
“The homeless crisis is devastating our most vulnerable population, making it a priority for the Trump administration, so that by 2020,” Carson said, “the president will spend $2.6 billion on housing programs aimed at ending homelessness.”
“The Trump administration is doing its part,” and wants to support California’s initiatives as long as it demonstrates a “willingness to make difficult and thoughtful decisions to resolve these issues,” the statement concluded.
“Throwing money at the problem” is not the solution
In a recent interview, Carson again stressed that more should be done than “throwing money at the problem,” arguing that since he is in the Housing Department, he has observed that Newsom’s programs do not resolve the crisis.
“So we have to spend more money to take care of the same number of people. That’s just not something that’s working. … The median home price in the San Francisco Bay Area is $1.7 million. Who can afford that? So we really need to go to the supply side here. What can we do to create more supply? And if we have adequate supply that will automatically take care of the pricing. Basic economics,” he explained.
The problem must be addressed before it becomes a “major epidemic,” he warned after visiting San Francisco. “It’s a severe crisis in L.A. and in many parts of California because it’s not just a fact that people are out on the street, but you know there’s feces on the street, there are all kinds of health hazards there. And this could really blow up into a major epidemic. So we need to do something,” Carson added.