- Trump administration officials on Monday said "humane policing" could help remove homeless people from the streets while deregulating local policies could make housing and rents more affordable.
- On a call with reporters to coincide with a new Council of Economic Advisors' (CEA) report on the state of homelessness, acting CEA Chairman Tomas Philipson said police "can be an important partner in moving highly vulnerable people off the streets into shelter or housing where they can receive the help they need." He did not offer specifics on how this role would be executed.
- Philipson specifically called out Los Angeles County, Seattle, New York, Boston and Washington, DC for policies that he said have led to very high rates of unsheltered homelessness. He said "overregulation of local housing markets has reduced supply and raised prices, making the cost of a home out of reach for more people," and that deregulation would result in "major reductions in homelessness in a number of key metropolitan areas."
President Trump has recently ramped up his focus on homelessness in some U.S. cities. Officials visited California recently and toured a former Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) facility that could be used as a shelter, and there are reportedly more visits planned.
In comments to the House Republican Conference last week, Trump said the federal government is "going to have to step in" and rescue cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, which he called an "embarrassment."
The CEA report places the blame for the spike in homelessness on city governments in California, New York and Washington, DC. Philipson argued that with less heavily regulated housing markets, cities would see major falls in homelessness: 54% in San Francisco; 40% in Los Angeles; 36% in Washington, DC and 23% in New York City.
During the call with reporters, a senior administration official said those figures are reached by deregulation driving down the cost of building a home, which then reduces home prices and rent.
But talk of police sweeping the streets to warehouse homeless people somewhere else will likely have local leaders concerned. In a statement last week, the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) said the solution to homelessness is "not further criminalization," and called proposals to move them from the streets into other areas or government-run shelters are "abhorrent and unconscionable."
In a statement released yesterday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, D, joined a letter with representatives of California's Big City Mayors, the California State Association of Counties and the California League of Cities calling out the Trump administration for floating budget cuts to federal programs like the Community Development Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The letter called for housing vouchers to be made more valuable, and for the creation of a program that incentivizes landlords to work with voucher holders to find stable housing. "Mr. President — shelter solves sleep, but only housing solves homelessness," the letter reads.
Local leaders acknowledge that homelessness is a major problem and needs policy solutions to encourage more development of affordable housing. And while cities have tried to get a handle on the situation, it is uphill sledding. A report in June found a 12% increase in homelessness in Los Angeles County, adding to a problem that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has called the "most complicated issue" to address.
Some have suggested that presidential push is designed to punish Democratically-controlled cities where the President is unpopular, but Philipson rejected those claims, saying that the report is "not necessarily singling out, we're just documenting the facts around the problem."