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Hundreds meet to talk housing — while legislators elsewhere focus on something else

By Jill Cowan and Robert Gebeloff

While California legislators focused on housing Tuesday as part of a Thanksgiving dinner table conversation, hundreds of Southern California families faced an even more pressing issue — getting ahead in a region facing severe rental price increases.

They gathered at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library to hear from Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, who introduced a dozen or so families on the edge of homelessness as they’ve been facing steadily rising rents in recent years.

California had 18,757 homeless families, he said, and an even bigger number of individuals without a place to live.

“There is an affordable housing crisis that all Californians are personally and personally invested in,” Coupal said.

For many in attendance, the solution was not immediately apparent.

“Who knew this would be an urgency to you,” local resident Katherine Belman said to Coupal.

“Nothing surprises me anymore. You guys are coming to the table prepared,” Coupal answered.

Ed Schied said he expected no real solutions from the gathered activists.

“In our world, this conversation is far too often about how to preserve the status quo,” he said.

But he praised the attendees for coming together “to collectively address the worst kind of problem and realize it’s not so bad.”

“This is not even our greatest problem in terms of unemployment or income inequality,” he said. “The homelessness crisis takes up all of our finite resources.”

The meeting was one of five around the state coordinated by the organization, which opposed a state mandate on homeowners to bring their water bills in line with city and county ordinances by 2021.

Coupal said it would result in water bills that are double or triple what they would be otherwise and would disproportionately hurt low-income seniors and people with disabilities.

“It forces people who are already on fixed incomes to make an even greater sacrifice,” he said.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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