by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
California’s homeless population has skyrocketed since the state adopted housing policies that critics say enable drug users and fail to treat the mentally ill. Now, the Biden administration is spending more than $3 billion to replicate those policies.
President Joe Biden’s Department of Housing and Urban Development in July announced its investment in so-called Housing First programs, which subsidize rent costs for those living on the street but do not impose drug or mental health treatment requirements. California adopted those programs in 2016 and has since seen its homeless population steadily grow. Last year, for example, California was home to 30 percent of the nation’s homeless people, despite Californians making up less than 12 percent of the U.S. population. From 2020 to 2022, California’s homeless population increased by roughly 6 percent, a rate 15 times higher than the rest of the country.
Biden, during his 2020 campaign, presented himself as a run-of-the-mill Democrat who would restore “normalcy” to America. After taking office, however, Biden has in many cases mirrored California—perhaps the nation’s most liberal state—on policy. After California banned the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035, for example, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm credited the state for inspiring her to “move faster and further” toward a green energy transition. The Biden administration went on to introduce environmental proposals that effectively force automakers to sell electric cars over their gas-powered counterparts.
Housing First programs have failed the Golden State, experts told the Washington Free Beacon, because they exclude treatment requirements for issues that commonly plague the homeless, such as substance abuse and mental illness. As a result, homeless people who receive housing subsidies often continue using drugs and fail to become independent, Manhattan Institute senior fellow Stephen Eide argued.