Luxury on Skid Row? Inside the New Taxpayer-Funded High-Rise for the Homeless

    Sean Pavone /
    Sean Pavone /

    Taxpayers are footing the bill for a swanky new high-rise in Los Angeles where homeless residents will enjoy skyline views, a cafe, a gym, an art studio, and so much more. The cherry on top? It’s all rent-free for the lucky folks who get to reside there.

    The new building has 19 stories and 278 units, with a total cost of $165 million, making each unit approximately $600,000. According to the Los Angeles Times, it is the first of three new high-rise buildings planned to house homeless individuals.

    The high-rise includes various amenities such as a gym, an art room, a soundproofed music room, a computer room with a library, a TV lounge, six common balconies (four of which have dog runs), a courtyard, and a cafe that will host movie nights. Additionally, each apartment is equipped with its own TV.

    This project’s funding comes from the city’s supportive housing loan program, Proposition HHH (approved by voters in 2016), state housing funds, and $56 million in state tax credits.

    Kevin Murray, a former California state senator and the president and chief executive of the Weingart Center (a nonprofit assisting homeless individuals), spearheaded this initiative. “We’re trying to make our little corner of the world look and feel a little better,” Murray told the Times.

    The three new apartment buildings will be situated around the Weingart Center’s headquarters. The second building will contain 302 units, and the third will have 104 units, collectively providing housing for about 700 homeless individuals. The first building’s commercial kitchen will serve the adjacent 600-bed homeless shelter. “We will offer people a meal plan, frankly, because we have a kitchen,” Murray said.

    The project aims to isolate homeless residents from Skid Row’s negative influences. Outside, tents line the sidewalks, and the area is plagued by rampant drug addiction and crime. However, the project has faced criticism. Estela Lopez, who is the executive director of the Downtown Industrial Business Improvement District, has expressed concerns about concentrating extreme poverty. However, she acknowledged the new building as a “campus of hope for those souls who will reside there.”