Los Angeles Will Vote On Whether Every Hotel In The City Must House The Homeless

New York’s mayor says half of the city’s hotel rooms are being used to house asylum seekers. Los Angeles said: hold my beer.

In March, voters in LA will consider an ordinance requiring hotels to report their number of vacant rooms each day, and make those rooms available to the homeless (for compensation).

  • This was proposed by union UNITE HERE Local 11, which represents workers at area hotels, restaurants, airports, sports arenas, and convention centers.

  • Since their petition received enough signatures, it forced a city council vote – to either pass it or refer it to a citizen referendum. They put it on the March 2024 ballot.

Hotels reportedly would have to inform the city about open inventory each day at 2 p.m. But that’s even prior to check-in time at most hotels, and many continue to sell rooms even after midnight. Customers increasingly book hotels last minute, and airport hotels often get surges of demand in the evening during storms or other major airline cancellation events.

Will homeless be put up at the Four Seasons? No matter what you think of someone’s ‘right to housing’ it will inevitably conflict with a property’s brand experience that then diminishes its ability to hold revenue premiums. That not only reduces the income-generating potential of a hotel, but jeopardizes its ability to repay debt. And riskier hotel debt makes it tougher to finance new hotel projects in LA.

Some critics have argued that politicians should have to report vacancies in bedrooms of their homes by 4 p.m. each day and make those rooms available to house the homeless. However, and while the homeless aren’t soldiers, this might run into third amendment problems. (The third amendment has been deemed to have been incorporated against the states by the 14th amendment. While it limits quartering of soldiers in private homes even during wartime, it shows that requiring boarding in someone’s home even in wartime is limited by the constitution.)

Fundamentally, though, for this to make sense you’d need to believe that,

  • The problem of homelessness is primarily about lack of a place to sleep and shower
  • And that there’s no way to voluntarily purchase or provide shelter in the market

I’m not suggesting LA buy hotels and operate them for the homeless, there are probably better operators. But hotels which are geared towards traditional guests aren’t going to have the services many in the homeless population need – either to assist them out of their situation, or to deal with their experiences in the moment.

It seems far better to (1) contract with hotels for blocks of rooms for housing, as an alternative to shelters. Pay a rate that entices some hotel owners, package that with social services, and prepare to deliver rooms in a way that helps the homeless and manages the experiences of other guests at the same time.

Requiring hotels to take in homeless people on a one-off basis, when they happen to have a room available, seems like the least effective way to address the problem of homelessness. The program is based on same-day availability of rooms, so homeless will often be forced to move from hotel to hotel every night, too, which hardly seems the best way to address the problem – for the homeless themselves, or for the city administering the program, since presumably many of those staying won’t just be checking out, hopping in an Uber, and then showing up at the next hotel on their itinerary (and waiting at the pool or bar until check-in time?).

What it does seem to do is require a lot of work for UNITE HERE Local 11 housekeepers, who would need to clean a lot more rooms after these one night stays.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @ Gary Leff

    Your attention has been brought to the vile post above by Loretta Jackson and it appears you’ve decided to leave it? It’s so sad that you choose to use your platform to stir up hatred.


    “Empathy seems to be in short supply today. We are more and more politically polarised. There is hatred all around us. In all parts of the world. Refugees and asylum seekers are once again being treated as less than human even in the most comfortable, wealthy and underpopulated countries. We are again seeing prejudice, racism, bigotry. It is aimed at anyone who is different from us. Whether the difference is in the colour of our skin, our religious beliefs, our sexual orientation or the language we speak. This hatred is a straight path to disaster. Too many of us appear to have a diminished conscience. Please, polish your conscience. The world needs it.”


  2. @platy – on the contrary, I hadn’t read the comment. I did see you commented earlier today, I cleared your comment without reading it.

    This second comment led me to look for the one you’d flagged, no I wasn’t comfortable with it and I removed it (as well as your quotation of it)

  3. This is an invitation to every homeless person in California to go to LA if ever there was one.

  4. This doesn’t seem like an efficient way to handle things and, as you pointed out…real problem for people with airline vouchers.

    However, converting excess hotel inventory, if there is any, into old school SRO housing for the homeless (i.e., entire buildings), seems much more reasonable.

    Homeless people need to be housed first. A room in a hotel for a night is not housing. A room in a hotel for a month, for single people without families, is a potential step up that gives them an address to provide prospective employers.

    What I DO think is that an ordnance like this would be a great way to expand shelter during a specific emergency, such as a heat wave. I.e., requiring hotels to house people for compensation when it is particularly unsafe to sleep on the streets could save lives.

    But ultimately, we need to find a way to eliminate houselessness altogether…which isn’t popular in a country where a solid amount of people believe the unhoused deserve it, alas.

    I think the people behind this see it as a housing first policy, but part of the point of housing first is to give people a fixed address.

  5. This story just proves that California Democrats will stop at nothing to turn the former paradise into a dystopian nightmare.

    Customer: Good afternoon. My wife and I are checking in.

    Hotel clerk: Happy to assist, Mr. Smith. Would you prefer a meth addict or convicted murderer as your next door neighbor?

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