Partner Simon Ha Speaks on Homelessness at AIA|LA’s Design for Dignity Conference

Steinberg Hart Partner and Mixed-Use Practice Leader Simon Ha spoke at AIA Los Angeles’ 5th Annual Design for Dignity Conference.

The three-day conference brought architects, designers, urban planners, and civic leaders together to convene around our urgent housing and homelessness challenge. Despite new affordable and permanent supportive housing facilities, with rapid shelter responses designed and realized constantly, there is a long way to go to ensure healthy and complete communities for all. On the session’s third day, Ha joined a panel of speakers that included fellow designers, government officials, community leaders and organizers to discuss how we can quantify and learn from current or completed projects in order to innovate less costly solutions and get them to market faster.

Ha brought a unique perspective through his experiences working in the private sector through Steinberg Hart’s developer clients, from the non-profit perspective in his role as Chairman of Skid Row Housing Trust’s Board of Directors, from the citizen’s perspective as a longtime resident of Downtown Los Angeles, and finally, from the planning and approval perspective as a member of the DTLA Neighborhood Council’s Planning and Land-Use Committee.

He shared:

Where is the outrage? Why are we not protesting in front of City Hall when Angelenos are dying in the street? We all must agree that it is unacceptable as a society to allow our citizens to suffer.  We should be furious. We all must fight, scream, protest, and demand that Housing be a Human Right. I implore you to show the same outrage and support for our houseless citizens as we are doing for George Floyd and BLM. 34% of Angelenos experiencing homelessness are Black, despite the fact that they make up only 8% of the County population.

We hear, time and time again, studies, reports, endless lists of incremental actions that we can take when we need systemic, radical, sweeping reform and a shift in the way we see housing. Just to meet the current need, we need to produce 5.5x the amount of housing that we have been producing historically. Incremental actions won’t cut it. We need outrage. We need activism. We need protest, and we need urgency.

66,000 homeless people seems like a big number, but that makes up only about 0.6% of LA County’s population. This is a solvable problem, but we can’t afford to wait for the perfect solution, or for everyone to agree. NIMBY’s aren’t going away, we just have to be louder than the NIMBY’s to demand housing everywhere.  This is a disaster and we must treat it like one so that we can get to action faster.

Demand that our leaders declare a State of Emergency. Demand that they fund more affordable housing. Demand that they act boldly as we have done to battle COVID 19. Be angry.

Steinberg Hart proudly sponsored the Design for Dignity event. AIA Los Angeles will publish a summary and takeaways from the event in the coming weeks. Learn more about the event, view the agenda, and see the full list of speakers here.