Sun, Apr

Two Ways for US Government Officials To Create Homelessness: One Gradual, The Other Instant

In Gaza, US-supplied weapons made thousands of Palestinian families instantly homeless.


PLANNING WATCH - Gradual creation of homelessness:  At all levels of government, the Democratic Party’s elected officials, with nearly full support from their Republican “opposition,” created homelessness in the United States.  To be clear, the Democratic Party’s voters are not the cause, just the party’s elected officials.  They not only determine domestic and foreign policy, but they implement these policies through laws, ordinances, enforcement, and budget allocations – with nearly full Republican support. 

Homelessness continues to rise, including  in Los Angeles, because the electeds’ homeless solutions compound the housing crisis.  Their approach claims that homelessness results from untreated mental illness and substance abuse, made worse by a housing shortage.  Their solution is to jettison land use regulations, especially state and local zoning and environmental laws, based on their erroneous claim that these regulations are the cause of homelessness. 

Their claims are based on four myths: 

Myth # 1:  Homelessness is caused by former single-family neighborhoods that oppose increases in housing density through zone changes.

These single-family neighborhoods no longer exist in California.  

  • New state laws allow property owners to add three Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) to their lot: a second house of up to 1,200 square feet, a small house on wheels, and a 500 square feet portion of the primary house with a separate entrance.
  • Owners or contractors can level a house, subdivide the cleared lot, and then build a duplex on each half.  Since developers can also add three ADU’s to each half, a single-family lot could become 10 separate housing units. 

Myth #2: The homeless crisis is caused by a housing shortageThe United States has 16 million vacant homes and 650,000 homeless people.   This means each homeless person has 23 houses they could move to, provided they have the money.  But they don’t have the money because of growing income inequality that prices many people out of housing.

Myth #3: Homelessness is caused by untreated mental illness and drug addiction.  According to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 5% of the US population has severe mental illness, that is 16.5 million people.  Among the homeless, 30 percent have severe mental illness, and 21 percent are also substance abusers.  Although there Is overlap between the two populations, there are at least 300,000 chronically homelessness people who have severe mental illness, substance abuse, or both.  This is about 2 percent of the US population with severe mental illness, obvious proof that mental illness and drug addiction require other factors, such as poverty, to produce chronic homelessness. 

Myth #4: Homelessness would end if cities rescinded their land regulations.  No, homeless would continue to rise because of growing poverty and economic inequality, evictions, mansionization, upzoning of individual parcels and community plan areas, and the end of HUD and local CRA public housing programs.  These causes remain in place when cities across the country deregulate land use as a sham cure for homelessness.  Furthermore, since up-zoning allows more density, it raises the cost of land and housing.  pricing still more people out of housing. 

The same elected officials also create instant homelessness:  The US proxy war in Gaza is waged by Israel with full  US diplomatic cover at the United Nations, US-provided military equipment, and intelligence sharing.  The mainstream media never connect the dots even though the same officials create mass homelessness domestically and abroad.  At home they rely on local land use laws and the termination of public housing programs.  Abroad they supply weapons, often gratis, which then destroy existing  housing and often murder their civilian occupants.


Gaza family in an apartment destroyed by US-supplied bombs and artillery. 

Gaza is not unique: Brown University’s Watson Institute has tallied the consequences of direct and proxy US military interventions since 2001.

  • 432,093 civilians have died violent deaths as a direct result of the U.S. post-9/11 wars.
  • An estimated 3.6-3.8 million people have died indirectly in post-9/11 war zones, bringing the total death toll to at least 4.5-4.7 million and counting.
  • More than 7.6 million children under five in post-9/11 war zones are suffering from acute malnutrition.
  • War deaths from malnutrition and a damaged health system and environment likely far outnumber deaths from combat.”

In the case of Israel’s war on Gaza, the US government’s continued diplomatic and military support made the war possible.  Without US support, this war would quickly end.  More specifically:

The Biden administration used its UN Security Council veto power three times since October 7, 2023, to prevent a Gaza ceasefire.  As a result Israel’s total embargo of food, water, medicine, electric power, and fuel into the Gaza Strip has continued.  What began as an Israeli siege on the world’s largest open air prison/ghetto for the past 17 years became an all-out US-supported Israeli military attack on non-combatants, including destruction of their homes, infrastructure, hospitals, schools, universities, churches, and mosques. 

The United States government made Israel’s military attacks on non-combatants possible.  As of Feb. 26, 2024, the US has provided Israel thousands of tons of ammunition, vehicles,  armaments, personal protective equipment, medical supplies, intelligence support, and two aircraft carrier strike groups.  Furthermore: 

  • By late December 2023, the US had sent Israel 230 cargo planes and 30 ships loaded with military equipment, including 5,400 MK84 bombs, 5,000 unguided MK82 bombs, 1000 GBU-39 bombs, 3,000 joint direct attack munitions (JDAM), 57,000 artillery shells, and 21,000 precision-guided munitions, guided missile launchers, thousands of bunker-buster bombs, and 200 kamikaze drones. 
  • Israel’s Channel 12 reported that the US also sent Israel F-35 fighter jets, F-15 fighter jets, and Apache Helicopters. 
  • Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced that US military aid to Israel includes intelligence, planning, and consultations.   The Intercept reports this assistance includes an Air Force team that furnishes the IDF with detailed targeting data. 

According to the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, the devastation resulting from US provided weapons and diplomatic support to Israel is enormous.  As of February 24, 2024:  

  • Number of Gazans displaced:  2,000,000 out a total population of 2,300,000
  • Completely destroyed homes in Gaza: 99,600
  • Partially destroyed homes in Gaza: 241,400
  • Total Gazans murdered: 38,066 (mostly by US government supplied weapons)
    • 14,300 children
    • 8,620 women
    • 34,570 civilians
  • Total Gazans injured: 71,220 (mostly by US government supplied weapons)
  • Destroyed Gazan industrial facilities: 1,920
  • Damaged and destroyed Gazan schools: 406 

Even though this devastation is hidden behind news stories that use the passive voice to conceal the perpetrators, the US government is totally complicit with Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Gaza Strip, including the mass destruction of homes and the murder and displacement of their residents.  The difference between this and failed domestic housing policies is quantitative, not qualitative. 

(Dick Platkin is a retired Los Angeles city planner who reports on local planning issues for CityWatchLA.  He is a board member of United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles (UN4LA). Previous columns are available at the CityWatchLA archives.  Please send questions to [email protected].)