Countdown to the 2017 California Economic Summit

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CES logoAs leaders, we are called to promote public actions and private choices, which create the social, economic, and environmental conditions that contribute to a vibrant, just, and sustainable future – a prosperity shared among us and with future generations. To achieve this vision, we must work together to address challenges such as poverty and income inequality, technological disruptions, and climate change by engaging in civil discourse, identifying solutions, and building the public will to engage in collective action. What can you do lead the way toward greater prosperity for all Californians?

Attend the 2017 California Economic Summit. Join state and local leaders as we come together to advance solutions for housing, workforce, and water sustainability, and seek to articulate a compelling vision and clear strategy for improving incomes, economic security, and upward mobility.

Since 2012, California Forward and partners in the California Economic Summit have articulated and advanced an evolving public agenda for shared prosperity. We now seek to accelerate that progress with an even stronger commitment to more explicit goals, and an affirmation of the Summit as a venue for respectful and candid engagement among those of different minds.

If you’re already registered, take five minutes to encourage your colleagues, partners, and other local leaders to attend. And if you’re not yet registered, do it now using the code LESAR17.

You can also learn more about the program and logistics on the California Economic Summit website.

Lead the Way!  If your organization has an inspiring story to share with Summit attendees, submit a request to host a Lightning Talk.

Join the Conversation.  Contribute your ideas in a guest blog to the Elevate CA web series.

CASA Update: Bay Area Leaders Come Together to Find Regional Solutions to the Housing Crisis

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Sen. Scott Wiener at CASA MeetingOn Wednesday, leaders from across the Bay Area convened in San Francisco to discuss how the region’s 9 counties and 101 cities could work together to address the housing crisis.  San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, and State Senator Scott Wiener (D – San Francisco), along with representatives from Facebook, Google, and Genentech were among the attendees at the first meeting of the 18-member CASA Steering Committee.

Wednesday’s event was an important early milestone in the 16-month CASA process, which is being facilitated by Estolano LeSar Perez Advisors at the behest of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG). Earlier that day, the CASA Technical Committee – composed of policy experts who will make recommendations to the Steering Committee – held its third meeting.

The goal of the CASA process is to develop a comprehensive set of regional strategies to address the “3 Ps:” Protecting vulnerable populations from displacement, Producing more housing, and Preserving existing affordable housing stock.

Senator Wiener kicked off the meeting with an exhortation to Bay Area officials to “catch up” with residents, who understand that we need to build more housing. He also spoke of the unique power of regional bodies like MTC to address problems that individual jurisdictions cannot solve on their own. He noted that the unprecedented package of 15 housing-focused bills passed by the Legislature earlier this month – including his bill, SB 35, which mandates a streamlined housing approval process in certain jurisdictions – will not solve the housing crisis alone, but is merely a “down payment” toward a solution. Much more work is needed at all levels of government in California, including the regional level.

Mayor Schaaf spoke of the devastating impact of displacement on Oakland families and communities, where median rents have risen by 25% while incomes have increased by just 5%. She said that we need to stop talking about housing – which evokes hammers and nails – and start talking about the people whose lives are devastated when they are uprooted from their long-time homes and communities.

Mayor Lee spoke about how San Francisco is losing its “essential workforce” of teachers, firefighters, restaurant workers, and others who are vital to the city’s well-being. During the next major earthquake, he noted, emergency responders who live 3 hours away will be unable to come to the city’s aid, unless we begin building more moderate-income housing in San Francisco.

Mayor Lee’s concerns were reiterated by elected officials from across the region. Rohnert Park Mayor and MTC Board Chair Jake Mackenzie said that the recently-opened SMART train system was already losing train operators who had relocated to Sonoma County to work on the new train, only to leave several months later when they failed to find housing they could afford.

Perhaps no sentiment was echoed more than that of Dave Regan with SEIU/United Healthcare Workers West, who said that the CASA Steering Committee must not settle for a handful of low-impact strategies that would nibble around the edges, but should instead demand “Order of Magnitude” solutions that could make an impact commensurate to the scope of the problem.

While much of the meeting was devoted to introductions and framing comments like these, the CASA Steering Committee did tackle one substantive issue: a proposal by MTC to use $300 million in new transportation funding from SB 1 to incentivize housing production among local jurisdictions. MTC’s proposal uses a classic ‘carrot and stick’ approach. The ‘carrot’ would set aside $40 million to be awarded to jurisdictions with the best performance in housing production over a 5-year period; the ‘stick’ would withhold this and other funds from jurisdictions who are falling far short of their RHNA targets for low, very low, and moderate income housing.

The Steering Committee had a lively discussion about this proposal. Mayor Schaaf and Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese spoke in support, noting that housing and transportation are inextricably linked, and that transportation funding decisions must begin to reflect that reality.

But others raised concerns with the ‘stick’ approach, arguing that carrots are easier to swallow. Santa Rosa City Councilmember Julie Combs noted that all her city can do is approve housing development – she cannot force developers to build it. Her comments echoed sentiments raised in the earlier Technical Committee meeting, where some members suggested that funding should be conditioned on actions that cities have more direct control over, such as compliance with the slate of new housing laws.

Ultimately, decisions about both the carrot and the stick will be decided by a vote of the MTC Commissioners. But the engaged and lively discussion at the first CASA Steering Committee meeting was a promising sign of what’s to come.

Going forward, the CASA Steering Committee will meet quarterly, with the next meeting scheduled for January 24. The Technical Committee will meet monthly, with their next meeting scheduled for October 25. Visit the CASA website for more information.

Realigning Regulations to Boost Housing Production

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California has a long history of enacting land use policies and practices to curtail urban sprawl and protect the environment, but some of the policies intended to promote sustainable growth have instead stifled housing development and constrained local economies. While there is widespread recognition that existing regulations have contributed to the crisis, local governments have few incentives to bring about change. The recently approved housing package, which includes several measures to reverse the unintended consequences of outmoded regulations, represents a critical step in removing barriers to housing development.

Currently, permitting for new development takes one-third longer in California’s coastal areas than in the average American city, which significantly increases development costs, says Carol Galante, housing policy expert at the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley.[1] Conversely, streamlined land use policies can position developers to better leverage limited financial resources and increase connectivity between housing and transportation, jobs, and amenities.

SB 35 (Wiener), one of the legislative session’s key housing bills, aims to speed up housing production by eliminating multiple planning reviews for infill projects in cities that have fallen short of their Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) targets. Other projects that meet certain affordability, density, and zoning requirements will also qualify for streamlined approval. By streamlining the approval process, lawmakers seek to eliminate the costs of time-consuming and costly legal challenges that have kept supply from responding elastically to demand.

A second historically underutilized strategy to reduce regulatory delays and costs related to CEQA is the Program Environmental Impact Review (PEIR). Often implemented under a General Plan, a Community Plan update, or a specific plan for a targeted redevelopment area, a PEIR generally establishes a framework for “tiered” or project-level environmental documents that are prepared in accordance with the overall program. For tiering to occur, a community first has to designate high-priority neighborhoods for economic growth and construction and adopt a plan for those areas with full initial CEQA review. Having an approved PEIR in place reduces project-specific uncertainties, and may also reduce the risk of project delays from duplicative lawsuits aimed at derailing plans and projects that have completed the CEQA process.

A PEIR can be used to simplify the task of preparing environmental documents on projects that are within the same geographic area, have generally similar environmental effects and mitigation needs, and are carried out under the same regulatory agency.  This approach can expedite permitting by focusing subsequent environmental reviews on project-specific design features. For example, if a mixed-use development project would create a significant traffic impact, a planner can attempt to tier off a Program EIR that covers the project site within a specific plan, and utilize the discussion, data, analysis, and mitigation measures from the PEIR to reduce the potential traffic impact of the project.

For example, SB 540 will authorize local jurisdictions to establish Workforce Housing Opportunity Zones by preparing an EIR and adopting a specific plan. For 5 years after a plan is adopted, local jurisdictions would not have been able to deny entitlement for any development proposed within the specific zoning area and would also have waived requirements for an EIR or negative declaration if the project satisfied certain criteria.

Several additional laws clarify existing Housing Element law, which require each community to produce their fair share of housing at each income level. Specifically, SB 166 prohibits communities from permitting units at a capacity lower than what is needed to meet their RHNA assessment for lower- and moderate-income households, and AB 1397 establishes higher standards for determining whether sites are suitable for development. In addition, AB 879 requires local governments to conduct more in-depth analysis of development constraints. Under the new law, local governments will be required to analyze the impact of local ordinances on the cost and supply of residential development, as well as requests to develop housing at lower densitites and other factors.

These laws reflect recommendations from several key studies and policy “toolkits,”[2] which outline a series of strategies that, when implemented together, can boost housing production and promote economic growth. These strategies can also be customized to reflect the specific needs of a community.

If you are interested in developing customized strategies to address your community’s needs, please contact Artemis Spyridonidis, Senior Associate, at artemis@lesardevelopment.com.

LeSar-Artemis-square webArtemis Spyridonidis covers housing policy issues, including structural solutions to the housing affordability crisis, consolidated plans, housing elements, accessory dwelling unit policy implementation, and regional issues across the state of California.

[1] Carol Galante, “Why By-Right Affordable Housing in California is the Right Thing to Do.”  Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley (May 24, 2016).

[2] Recent, notable reports include McKinsey Global Institute’s “Closing California’s Housing Gap” (October 2016) and The White House Housing Development Toolkit (September 2016)

Cultivating Housing Policy Leadership

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Debbie Ruane of the San Diego Housing Commission speaking to the Housing Policy Leadership Academy.

Debbie Ruane of the San Diego Housing Commission speaking to the Housing Policy Leadership Academy.

Most professionals working in housing-related fields are acutely aware of the impact that the high cost of housing has had on individuals and communities statewide, but fewer understand how they can influence policy to promote smart growth. The Housing Policy Leadership Academy, which launched in September, brings together a diverse group of more than 30 emerging leaders to examine the causes and consequences of the housing crisis and explore viable policy solutions.

“Real World” Insights

Intended to deepen participants’ knowledge on a wide range of housing policy issues, the course emphasizes both best practices and “real world” insights from local leaders. During the first couple sessions, the group was oriented to how housing markets function, the causes of the current housing crisis, and useful frameworks for thinking about how to boost housing production.

Debbie Ruane, Executive Vice President and Chief of Strategy for the San Diego Housing Commission, talked about the importance of setting annual housing production goals, streamlining regulations, unlocking land, and increasing financial resources available for housing. She also sparked debate about Proposition 13, which limits property taxes, and its role in reducing turnover within the housing market.

“What I’d say is the most interesting is that people come to the class probably with their own agenda of what they think should be done,” said Barrett Tetlow, Chief of Staff to Councilmember Scott Sherman. “If you’re a Republican, you think you’re going to cut taxes and government fees. Somebody else says rent control is the answer. The truth is that it’s much more complex than that, so in that sense it’s been eye opening.”

The Life of a Deal

The course also explored the differences between market rate and affordable housing, the lifecycle of a deal, and how to work with developers to complete projects. Both Andrew Malick of Malick Infill Development and Sarah Kruer Jager of the Monarch Group shared case studies based on their experiences, including one which was significantly delayed by the 2007-2008 downturn in the housing market. The developers also talked about how specific decisions, such as those related to parking requirements, cause significantly increase the costs of development.

“Listening to developers speak when they want to build in a community was really valuable,” said Megan Gamwell, an economic development specialist from National City. “From a city’s point of view, we’re looking at specific factors about what we want to see in our community, but hearing from developers about why things might not fit and what they’d like to see to incentivize more building is something I can take back to work.”

Gentrification and Displacement

Gentrification and displacement in Barrio Logan and City Council District 9, which includes City Heights and Mt. Hope, was another hot topic discussed during the course. Vivian Moreno, who is both a participant and a representative for San Diego City Councilmember David Alvarez, traced the interrelationship between development and population displacement in Barrio Logan and explained the ongoing controversy about efforts to update the Barrio Logan community plan.

“Those of us who work in city government are on the frontline for land use matters, and it’s important to understand what the issues are and how they can be remedied,” said Moreno, reflecting on the discussion. “We need to build more housing prevent, displacement, and look at how we can use funding to preserve the culture of our communities. We also need to look at what other big cities are doing to see if it can be replicated.”

Stephen Russell, Executive Director of the San Diego Housing Federation, provided insight on how the gentrification of City Heights, which traditionally had a sizeable stock of naturally occurring affordable housing, has started to force out the large refugee population that have called the neighborhood home for decades. Keryna Johnson, a policy advisor to Councilmember Georgette Gomez, supplemented Russell’s presentation with a story about her own experience as a new homeowner and the realization that she, too, has played a role in gentrifying and possibly displacing residents from her community.

The topic was especially relevant for Eric Morrison-Smith, leadership development manager at RISE San Diego, an organization focused on urban leadership and civic engagement.

“I didn’t realize how important housing was until I started digging into the data and hearing the stories about people from urban communities and how it’s affected them,” said Smith. “I really appreciated how the speakers put responsibility on me to think about how I may be gentrifying certain communities.”

The remaining sessions will focus on federal and state policy, equity, design and construction, and urban planning. Speakers will include California 39th District Sen. Toni Atkins, San Diego Councilmembers Chris Ward and Georgette Gomez, Congressman Scott Peters’ Chief of Staff Mary Anne Pintar, architects Maxine Ward and Andy Spurlock, and urban designer Howard Blackson.

Artemis Spyridonidis covers housing policy issues, including structural solutions to the housing affordability crisis, consolidated plans, housing elements, accessory dwelling unit policy implementation, and regional issues across the state of California.

To learn more about LDC’s policy services, contact Artemis Spyridonidis, Senior Associate, at artemis@lesardevelopment.com.

MATCH Program to Fund Affordable Housing Near Transit

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Los Angeles Metro BusLos Angeles County took a bold step forward in its efforts to preserve affordable housing near transit earlier this month with the launch of the Metro Affordable Transit Connected Housing (MATCH) program. Touted as “new terrain” for transit agencies, the program will provide $75 million for acquisition and predevelopment financing to qualified developers to buy land or existing housing and replace it with affordable housing located near public transit. The fund is expected to produce a net increase of 1,800 units.

As part of the Los Angeles County Metro Transportation Oriented Communities program, MATCH seeks to provide convenient transit options that connect residents to schools, jobs, healthcare providers, and other amenities with the goal of improving social and health outcomes for residents. To qualify for a MATCH loan, developers must purchase land or housing within a half-mile of rail or bus lines offering peak service every 15 minutes or less.

“MATCH represents an innovative, multi-sector response to address the growing unaffordability and inequity of opportunity in the Los Angeles region,” said Kimberly Latimer-Nelligan, COO and EVP, Community Investment for the Low Income Investment Fund, the statewide nonprofit selected to serve as the fund administrator. “The goals of the MATCH Fund align directly with the Low Income Investment Fund’s work to stabilize families, boost local economies, and build more resilient communities.”

The MATCH program was funded with $9 million seed capital from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which was matched with investments by local foundations, including the California Community Foundation, The California Endowment, and the Weingart Foundation. Three national Community Development Financial Institutions– the Enterprise Community Loan Fund, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, and LIIF – have formed a consortium to manage the program, provide leverage financing, and originate loans.

For more information, including borrower and project eligibility, visit www.matchfundla.com.

Liz Tracey-4x5For information about affordable housing and community development financing resources, contact Liz Tracey, Senior Principal, LDC at: liz@lesardevelopment.com.

Liz Tracey is an expert on affordable housing and community development finance using tools such as the Low Income Housing Tax Credit and New Markets Tax Credits.

$100 Million Added to Affordable Housing Sustainable Communities NOFA

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On September 27th, the Strategic Growth Council announced a $100 million increase to the Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA), which will now be included in the Third Round of the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) program. The additional funds come from the August Cap-and-Trade auction proceeds, and increase the amount of available funding to approximately $255 million. The decision to release the funds came in response to a request from the California Housing Partnership, which was echoed by both NPH and SCANPH.

The funds will be released on October 2, 2017, and applications will be due January 16, 2018. AHSC program staff will be hosting six application workshops throughout the state on the following dates:

- Monday, October 2, 2017 – Sacramento
- Wednesday, October 4, 2017 – Fresno
- Thursday, October 5, 2017 – San Francisco
- Tuesday, October 10, 2017 – Los Angeles
- Wednesday, October 11, 2017 – Riverside
- Thursday, October 12, 2017 – San Diego

The Draft Funding Guidelines released on August 4th, 2017, are currently being updated to reflect feedback from stakeholders and legislative updates related to AB 1550, which increases the percentage of funding for projects that benefit disadvantaged communities with an additional focus on low-income communities and households. Final Guidelines will be adopted after the release of the NOFA. Additional requirements will be built into the program guidelines for future funding cycles.

For more information, please refer to the workshop information or the memo published by AHSC. LDC affiliate Estolano LeSar Perez, in partnership with Enterprise Community Partners, will be providing technical assistance to support qualifying AHSC applicants.

Liz Tracey-4x5For information about affordable housing and community development financing resources, contact Liz Tracey, Senior Principal, LDC at: liz@lesardevelopment.com.

Liz Tracey is an expert on affordable housing and community development finance using tools such as the Low Income Housing Tax Credit and New Markets Tax Credits.

Gov. Brown Signs Housing Bill Package

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Gov. Brown Signing Housing Package

Gov. Brown Signs Housing Bill Package at Hunters View, an affordable housing development in San Francisco

Hunters View, an affordable housing development in San Francisco, served as a fitting backdrop for Gov. Jerry Brown as he signed the package of housing bills on September 29th, surrounded by legislators and leaders who championed the legislation. The package of legislation, which includes SB 2, SB 3, and SB 35, reflects the feeling of urgency among lawmakers to address California’s housing crisis on a statewide level.

The package’s centerpiece, the Affordable Homes and Jobs Act authored by Sen. Toni Atkins, creates a permanent revenue source for affordable housing, and is expected to generate approximately $250 million annually through recording fees charged on real estate transactions, such as mortgage refinance documents, notices of foreclosure sales, and quitclaim deeds, among others. The bill passed the Legislature following intense negotiations, which resulted in amendments to provide greater local control over the funds.

Sens. Jim Beall and Toni Atkins

Sens. Jim Beall and Toni Atkins

In 2018, half the funds will be allocated to local governments to update planning documents and zoning ordinances to streamline housing production, and half will be made available to fund programs for individuals experiencing or at risk of homelessness. Beginning in 2019, 70% of the funds will be allocated to local governments, and 30% of the funds will be appropriated for mixed income multifamily residential housing, state incentive programs, and efforts to address affordable homeownership and rental housing opportunities for agricultural workers and their families.

Gov. Brown also signed the Veterans and Affordable Housing Bond Act of 2018, which authorizes a November 2018 ballot measure seeking voter approval for $4 billion in bond funding. The bond would include $3 billion for the construction of new low-income housing and $1 billion to extend the Cal-Vet Farm and Home Loan Program, which provides veterans with assistance to purchase homes, farms, and mobile homes.

The third key measure, Senate Bill 35, will eliminate multiple local planning reviews for infill projects that meet certain zoning and affordability standards in cities that have fallen short of their Regional Housing Needs Assessment targets. To qualify, projects will also need to meet applicable zoning standards, include at least 10% of affordable units, and pay a prevailing wage to construction workers.

Although Gov. Brown and key legislative leaders had reached a deal on the central measures of the housing package in late August, the bills were held up until the close of the legislative session as leaders worked to secure the necessary votes. SB 2 passed the Assembly with a single Republican vote from San Diego’s Brian Mainschein, the former San Diego County commissioner on homelessness.

LDC will continue to follow news on how these and other measures are implemented in cities and counties statewide. If you are interested in learning more about how to maximize the opportunities created by the legislation, please contact Jessica Ripper, Senior Associate, at jessica@lesardevelopment.com for a briefing or trainings for your team.

Jennifer LeSar President and CEO LeSar Development Consultants

With more than 25 years of experience in the real estate development and investment banking industries, Jennifer LeSar brings a diverse background to her work in community development and urban revitalization. Her technical expertise spans from policy and program development to the origination and underwriting of complex investments in equity funds, multi-family portfolios, and historic and low-income tax credit properties utilizing federal and state financing programs.

If You Don’t Believe in Housing First, Here’s What You Do Believe In

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HUD Secretary Ben Carson at the National Alliance to End Homelessness

HUD Secretary Ben Carson at the National Alliance to End Homelessness

This summer, I attended the National Alliance to End Homelessness annual conference along with 2,000 others who are passionate about ending homelessness. While it’s always a great opportunity to connect with people and exchange ideas, the most important takeaway came from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Dr. Ben Carson, who delivered a keynote speech and took a public stance advocating for the Housing First approach to ending homelessness. Simply put, Housing First focuses on rapid access to permanent housing with few prerequisites, as well as support to help individuals and families maintain their housing. During Secretary Carson’s speech, I became extremely encouraged when he urged attendees to stay the course with Housing First.

Secretary Carson’s speech was especially timely, because lately Housing First has drawn criticism and some are pushing to return to traditional models. In my opinion, these criticisms are the result of misunderstandings about the approach among people who associate it with unrelated issues.

As someone who understands and promotes Housing First, I can spout off its principles, but Secretary Carson’s speech helped me consider what people who criticize the model believe. So here is my understanding of the beliefs held by people who don’t support Housing First:

1. Housing is not a basic human right. People should only have a home if they deserve it, earn it, and comply with your standards, which are probably derived from a privileged perspective.

2. Compassion should only be given to people who want to make changes in their lives. If people are not willing to accept your definition of help or make changes that you feel are fit, then it’s their problem.

3. Homelessness is an individual problem that results from poor choices, individual behaviors, lack of skills, and laziness. Things like housing markets, economics, political agendas, income inequality, a history of racial oppression, etc., are not the root of the homeless problem.

4. Someone’s own safe and secure home is not the best place for them to achieve stability and long-term success.

5. You believe in judging someone for their mishaps, and telling them that what they are doing is wrong.

6. People cannot be successful in housing without addressing their issues first. You ignore the fact that many housed people, including middle and upper class households, use addictive substances and live with mental illness.

7. It’s the homeless systems’ responsibility for addressing poverty and cracks in mainstream systems and institutions, such as education, criminal justice, child welfare, behavioral health, labor market, foster care, I could go on.

8. If someone refuses to enter a shelter or another temporary program, they are choosing to be homeless.

9. You disagree with medical professionals, and view addiction as a choice for which the consequences are your own. The only cure is 100% sobriety—nothing in between.

10. People experiencing homelessness are broken and need to be fixed before they can have a home. Fixing means jumping through all sorts of hoops, sleeping in congregate shelters, having religious or other values pushed at you, etc.

I’m sure that some people will not agree with my list. I’m okay with that. But maybe, by looking at the flip-side beliefs of Housing First, some people will see how problematic that perspective really is.

For more information about homelessness programs, data, or policy, contact Kris Kuntz, Senior Associate, at Kris@lesardevelopment.com.

State Lawmakers Take Action on Homelessness

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Tents set up by people who are homeless on Skid Row in Los Angeles

Tents set up by people who are homeless on Skid Row in Los Angeles

Affordable housing advocates weren’t the only winners last week as California lawmakers worked to push through a flurry of bills before the end of the legislative session on September 15th. In addition to creating a permanent source of revenue to fund affordable housing, SB 2 (Atkins) provides funding for programs for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. In 2018, half the funds will be made available to the Department of Housing and Community Development to provide funding for programs for people experiencing  or at risk of homelessness. The legislation specifies that use of the funds includes, but is not limited to, providing rapid rehousing, rental assistance, and navigation centers, as well as the construction, rehabilitation, and preservation of permanent and transitional rental housing.

Several other bills aimed specifically at addressing homelessness also passed during the 2017 legislative session:

AB 727 (Nazarian) authorizes counties to expand access to housing assistance for people in programs funded by the Mental Health Services Act. The use of MHSA funds for rental subsidies was previously restricted to individuals participating in Full Service Partnerships who require intensive services to stabilize and to individuals who were referred to services from the field. This bill will allow counties to continue to support individuals as they transition to lower levels of service along the continuum of care.

AB 74 (Chiu) establishes the Housing for a Healthy California Program, which aims to create supportive housing for homeless SSI recipients by leveraging Medi-Cal benefits. The program would be funded through the federal Housing Trust Fund or other sources available to the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), and would be released through competitive grants to counties and operating reserve grants and capital loans to developers. Numerous studies have demonstrated the cost-effectiveness of coupling stable housing with physical and mental health services for high utilizers of public services.

AB 932 (Ting) establishes a pilot program allowing specific cities and counties to develop a plan and local ordinances to expedite the construction of emergency shelters on land owned or leased by the city upon declaration of a shelter crisis. HCD would be required to approve local ordinances adopted during the pilot program to ensure compliance with health and safety standards. Eligible localities that declare a shelter crisis are required to submit an annual progress report to the Legislature indicating the total number of residents in shelters, the number who have moved from a shelter into permanent supportive housing, and the number who have exited the system, as well as other data on steps the locality is taking to reduce homelessness.

AB 210 (Santiago) allows counties to develop multidisciplinary teams to expedite the process of linking homeless adults and families to housing and supportive services by allowing provider agencies to share information and coordinate care. Allowing for a coordinated interagency response will not only improve government efficiency, individuals and families will benefit from greater continuity of care.

LDC will continue to follow the news from the 2017 legislative session and provide you with updates on how these and future measures, if enacted, are implemented in cities and counties statewide.

If you are interested in learning more about how to maximize the opportunities created by the legislation, please contact Jessica Ripper, Senior Associate, at jessica@lesardevelopment.com for a briefing or trainings for your team.

Portland Summer Vacation….Visiting a Couples Shelter

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Beds at the Transition Projects couples shelter in Portland, OR

Beds at the Transition Projects couples shelter in Portland, OR

I have family in Portland, Oregon, so I try to get up there at least once a year to see them. If you have not been, Portland is a great city. Very outdoorsy, progressive, good food. Plus, I feel at home given Portland is home to a decent sized homeless population with plenty of encampments, similar to San Diego. As someone who always wants to learn more about ways to end homelessness and see what other communities are doing, I decided to drag my family on a tour of a Portland homeless shelter program specifically for couples. Portland recently decided to open a few couples’ shelters after asking homeless residents their main reasons for not accessing shelter, and hearing two common responses: People couldn’t take their pet and couldn’t stay with their partner.

So with my wife and two kids in my sister’s car we drove to Southeast Portland to check out it out. Coincidentally, San Diego City Council member Chris Ward, who has strongly advocated for ending homelessness, was also visiting Portland with his family and broke away for to join us. The shelter, the Willamette Center, is a low-barrier shelter with the majority of its 120 beds designated for couples. The shelter is operated by Transition Projects, a large non-profit that offers an array of homeless services throughout Portland.

While I have been in several shelters for single adults and families, this was my first time in one for couples so I had a lot of questions. How is a couple defined? Do they sleep in one bed or two? How do they handle the usual relationship squabbles? Are they treated as a household in their Coordinated Entry System? And what about, ummm, intimacy activities?

First off, I was very impressed with the facility’s aesthetics and operation. Located in a cute residential neighborhood, I honestly would have driven right past if I hadn’t been looking for it. One would never know that 120 people sleep inside this nondescript building every night.

Sign posted at the Transition Projects shelter for homeless couples (Portland, OR)

Sign posted at the Transition Projects shelter for homeless couples (Portland, OR)

Once inside, there was a positive vibe to the place. I noticed right away that they did not have any security guards, which may have contributed to this sense of ease. In addition, shelter staff are trained in non-violent conflict resolution, and are very upfront about their expectations from the beginning. They also ask guests to check any weapons or needles at the door, and allow guests to retrieve their items when they leave. Guests don’t have to be sober to stay, but drugs and alcohol are not allowed on site. Pets are welcome regardless of companion or service animal status.

Now getting back to my questions….The shelter doesn’t define a couple, but rather allows people to define themselves. Married, not married, gay, straight. They have even had adult parents with adult kids identify as a couple and stay there. They don’t question, but do let the couple know that staying there might be difficult if they are no longer a couple, especially because there aren’t any beds designated specifically for single men at that site.

Couples get one queen bed on bunks. And while the staff commonly deal with relationship disputes, they have found a good balance of giving people space while intervening when necessary. They also have rules stating “No sex or overtly sexual behavior.”

My biggest takeaway is that the staff treats the people who are staying there as ordinary people. They established limited rules, and people were treated with respect and given the power to make their own decisions. Staff were definitely present but in a highly supportive and problem-solving role. Other communities considering how best to serve homeless couples should really be looking to Transition Projects as an example of what can happen when a city listens to and respects people who are experiencing homelessness.

For more information about homelessness programs, data, or policy, contact Kris Kuntz, Senior Associate, at Kris@lesardevelopment.com.