Policy Change Proposals

More than 30 years ago, when I was young, and was living in Vietnam, I heard the term homeless but I had no idea of why a person would be homeless. But now, living in America, I see many homeless people, and that is not right.  The effects of homelessness include unsafe environment, crimes, and violence. The purpose of this page is to gather input, knowledge and discuss ideas on this issue.  We will soon create a petition to the president and lawmakers to implement some of the ideas that we gathered on this page.  We divide this page into several sections for ease of understanding.  Within each section, we may have some questions.  If you know the answers, please leave a comment at the bottom of the page.

This page contains a lot of ideas for important changes, and you may not have enough time to read them all now, therefore, you may want to bookmark this page so that you can continue to read and contribute your ideas whenever you have time.

We will first talk about California because California has the most homeless.  There are other ideas that are not specific to California below.

Section A: California – Build It on The Hills

We moved the main content of this section to its own separate page. The paragraphs below list other things that we must also do in order to end homelessness in California.

We need to come up with a creative way to fix the zoning laws.

California needs to establish an entity, probably a nonprofit, that focuses on building affordable housing.  We need to set a goal for this entity, and hold the people that run this entity accountable for failure.  This entity needs to build affordable housing in areas that are not already crowded, and create jobs in these areas.  Handing out vouchers is only a short term solution.  We need both a short term solution and a long term solution.  We need a construction company that is by the homeless and for the homeless.

We also need to get businesses involved.  We need to get employees from big tech companies educated on the issue.  Perhaps they can talk to their leadership team to come up with an innovative way to solve this quality of life problem.  We also need more social entrepreneurs.

Section B: Restructure HUD

From what I read, when president Ronald Reagan cut funding for HUD in half in 1982, that triggered homelessness in America almost overnight. 

HUD was created as part of president Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty 1965 to address America’s housing needs, and since president Ronald Reagan cut HUD funding in 1982, funding for HUD had never returned to what it was previously. I understand the reason for the budget cut, but how can we do better to address this homeless issue?

In 1930, president Roosevelt created the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) as part of the “New Deal” to help America recover from the depression. Despite its shares being owned by the federal government, TVA operates exactly like a private corporation, and receives no taxpayer funding, and therefore is not subjected to federal budget cuts. Can we call on Congress to increase funding for HUD and at the same time restructure HUD to be like TVA?

I would imagine that the new HUD should be run by a nonprofit created by Congress. This nonprofit would have its own board of directors, and Congress should review the salary compensation of top paid employees, as well as the improvement made by this nonprofit. Salaries should be based more on cost of living rather than greed.

TVA seems to be self-sustainable. Can the new HUD be self-sustainable somehow? Because TVA operates exactly like a private corporation, it can produce and sell its own products (has its own sources of income). Can the new HUD have its own sources of income? What sources of income should the new HUD have to make it self-sustainable, say after five years?

Where did the money for the recent stimulus packages come from? What are the effects of these packages? Can Congress create a package to fund HUD? How much money and how long would it take to create enough housing units to house all the homeless people in America?  Can we end homelessness overnight?  How much would that cost and how long will it last?

In addition to handing out vouchers and grants, this new HUD should also build.  This new HUD should work with nonprofits or commercial construction companies to build more housing units by bidding. Bids should be awarded to entities that can be most cost efficient given good quality and guarantee, preferably to a nonprofit that prefers to hire people who lost their jobs. Units built by HUD are owned and managed by HUD, and cannot be sold.  Rents of these units are adjusted based on the tenant’s ability to pay. HUD should also run counseling, rehab, job training programs to help tenants stay healthy and productive.

Section C: Where to build and what to build

Experts and politicians agree that permanent supportive housing is the way to solve this homeless issue. However, residents pushback because:

  1. Fear of lowering their property’s value.
  2. Fear of increasing crimes in their neighborhood.

Instead of building affordable housing units in the neighborhood where there is significant pushback, can we build affordable housing units for the homeless in other surrounding suburban, under-developed cities, on state or federal land where there is not a lot of pushback?

This new HUD should work with cities to create sustainable zoning laws, create incentives for startups and companies to be located in surrounding cities rather than in major metropolitan areas.  Creating temporary housing units in remote cities may work.

We know how to build houses really well.  It is not rocket science, but we cannot seem to end homelessness.  Part of the challenge of building affordable housing is the cost of construction and the cost of land.  Can we somehow bring the cost of land down?  

I have heard that in one country, you cannot buy land forever.  When you buy land, you buy the right to use it for a long time, and after that time expires, the land goes back to the city.  I do not know if this idea is applicable in the US, but it should be applicable to federal and state land.

In an effort to end homelessness sooner, the new HUD should build more tiny homes first, and subsequently build more affordable housing.  The new HUD should also provide supportive services to occupants of these tiny homes as well.

Section D: Increase funding

Review the budget for the previous year, and funding for any programs that have anything to do with homeless people should be considered as the funding for this new HUD.

Increase funding for this new HUD for the next five years, and then subsequently scale back based on the income that this new HUD generates.

Questions:

  1. How much should we increase the budget for HUD by, and for how long?
  2. Can we end homelessness overnight?  How much will this cost, and how long will it last for?
  3. How long will it take the new HUD to build enough housing units?

Section E: Law Ideas

We should make some ideas below into laws.

Idea A: Because layoffs are part of the cause for homelessness, the federal government should review and look for ways to strengthen the current unemployment law, perhaps increase the premium that employees must pay, or tax employers more, and use part of that to fund this new HUD.

Idea B: There should be a federal law requiring various governments to spend x% of their budget on homelessness and poverty and building affordable housing.

When the government spends money to build affordable housing, who manages these units?  Who do I need to talk to to apply for affordable housing?  Who does my rent go to?  Is the government giving away money to private developers?  On average, what is the percentage of their budget do cities spend on homelessness and poverty?

Idea C: Require employers to provide financial training and risk assessment annually.  This may be stupid but may help.

Idea D (separate self-funded unemployment account): Require employees to put a certain amount / percentage of their salary into a bond investment account to guard against unemployment.  This is in addition to the traditional unemployment benefit.  This is an investment  account that invests in government bonds.  The money that they put into this account is tax deductible.  Like the traditional 401k or IRA, there is a maximum that employees can contribute, but the limit can be higher or lower.  Employers must meet with the employee to review the employee account’s balance at the start of each year to determine how much the employee needs to contribute.

The goal is that this account needs to be roughly twice the amount of his / her annual salary.  If the balance of this account is more than this amount, or more than a certain maximum limit, the employee cannot put any more money into this account.

The employee can only have one such account.  As mentioned, the money that employees put into this account is tax deductible.  They cannot take this money out.  The only way that they can take money out of this account is that their regular unemployment benefit expires and they have to provide proof that they are actively looking for a job.  Basically, this is an additional extension to the regular unemployment insurance.  However, if the employee quit his / her job, the employee can withdraw money at his / her current salary.

Idea E: Require cities and counties to implement a homeless prevention / protection program that assists people who recently lost their jobs (assist with rent, job searching), and requires landlords to refer people to these programs for help the moment that people miss a payment.  Landlords cannot evict tenants for missing payments without first reporting and referring the tenants to these programs.  Landlords should be able to recover lost rent through these programs up to a certain amount that is considered as affordable to a median income family in the area where the property is located.

The landlords should work with this program at the city level where the property is located, and the city can request additional funding from the county, or state if needed.  Under this program, each tenant is allowed up to 48 months of miss payment, or up to a certain maximum amount for the entire lifetime, but is only allowed up to a maximum of 12 months of continuous miss payment.  Hopefully, given these limited time periods, the tenant can apply and qualify for suitable affordable housing.

Idea F: Bring back programs that re-integrate inmates back into society.  We cannot simply just release inmates from jail and let them go back to the people that they used to know for help.  Those people are likely part of a gang or a mob.  If we simply just release inmates from jail, they will be jobless and homeless, and are likely to commit more property crimes just to survive.  We need to have a program that houses these individuals, provides them with counseling, and help them find a job so that they can have a reasonable life without causing more harm to other people and society.  Perhaps, this program should be run by the new HUD.

Idea G: This is not related to homelessness, but we should have a law requiring the IRS to review yearly salary / bonus of executives of companies that receive bailouts. This law makes it illegal for executives to receive salary raise or bonus for two years if the company receives bailout money, and especially if the company recently laid off employees.  This may be hard to enforce, but allow an employee to file a complaint with the IRS, or when it appears on the media, the IRS must investigate.

Idea H:  This idea needs improvement.  I do not know how we can make this idea enforceable.  I think that part of the steady increase in cost of housing in California is due to foreign money / investment firms.  They buy houses, which causes prices for houses to go up, which also push the price for rental housing to go up as well.  However, during a housing market tumble, we probably want foreign investments to hold up our housing market.  What would happen if we just let our housing market tanks?  How can we prevent foreign investment firms or individuals from buying up houses?

Idea I: The rent control law in the city that I lived in limits the number of times, and the amount that landlords can increase each year.  I cannot remember the details.  From what I know, rent control laws are not consistent.  Is there a rent control law that limits the maximum of rental price to one third of the median income at the city level? With tough rent control, some landlords are converting rental properties to condos for sale, which may reduce the number of rental properties and therefore cause higher rental rates for those who cannot afford to buy.

Conclusion:

Having this new HUD separated from the federal government, and having a plan for it to be self-sustainable should guard against future budget cuts.  If this new HUD can sufficiently build a steady supply of affordable supportive housing units, and if we can make some of these ideas into laws, we should be able to end homelessness.

If we are not able to make these ideas into laws at the federal level, we should create petitions to make these ideas into laws at the state, county, and city levels.

Our purpose for this page is to gather comments, opinions, and suggestions so that we can fine tune our proposals.  At the very least, we are planning to create a petition for the president and lawmakers to create a task force or a committee to evaluate these proposals and work on this issue.  If you would like to be informed of when we are ready to create this petition, please complete this Google Form ( https://forms.gle/bLH6AyUWEUjHiSJx5 )

What are your thoughts?  Is any of the above ideas or proposals naive or unrealistic?  Honestly, we do not know how the existing HUD programs work.  If we mentioned anything that is not true, or do not make any sense, please feel free to correct us and question us using the comment form below. If you have any other ideas on how to end homeless, please share. We are also looking for people who can take some of these ideas and make it into reality. If you can help us with this, let us know using the Google Form above. If you are a homeless advocate, and you think that the idea of building large sanctioned homeless villages on the hills may work, feel free to discuss these ideas with your groups, your elected officials, etc, and let us know about your effort (started, failed, succeeded, criticisms, pushbacks, etc).

2 Comments

  1. I agree upon most parts of this letter. I am trying to organize a non-profit farm concept that will provide housing, meals and work for homeless vets and families.

    Like

    1. Hello erael1patriotgmailcom, your idea of a nonprofit farm is similar to our idea. We are in San Jose, California. If you live in the same area, we can collaborate together. Even if you do not live in the same area, we can still share ideas and experience together. Use the Contact Us link above, let us know your email address, and we will be happy to exchange ideas on farming.

      Like

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