San Diego Supervisors Approve $25 Million Investment to Address Homelessness, Affordable Housing

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SD Investment in Addressing HomelessnessThe Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved a plan to invest $25 million from county reserves to increase the supply of low-cost housing in the region. The funds will cover costs associated with permits and regulatory fees, loan repayment, property purchases, equipment leasing, and other related expenses, and will be used to leverage funds from other federal, state and private resources to generate developments that include high-density projects near grocery stores, health services, mass transit lines and other conveniences.

The Supervisors also designated 11 surplus county-owned properties to create more affordable homes. The targeted parcels range from undeveloped or minimally developed lots as well as aging buildings that could be redeveloped into new apartment complexes benefitting those at risk of homelessness. Nine of the properties are within the city of San Diego.

In addition, the plan allows Supervisor Roberts to transfer $500,000 of the funds he gets annually under the county’s Neighborhood Reinvestment Program to the county’s Health and Human Services Agency to underwrite pre-development and planning activities.

Homelessness Presentation at San Diego Downtown Breakfast Rotary Club

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Kris at Rotary ClubIn June, I was invited to discuss homelessness at the Downtown San Diego Downtown Breakfast Rotary Club meeting alongside San Diego Housing Commission CEO Rick Gentry. Together we highlighted the history of homelessness in our country, circumstances that contribute to housing instability and homelessness, best practices to reduce homelessness, and San Diego’s response to the growing homeless population. I also got to share the stage with my dad, a Rotary Club member. Trying to cover the complexities of homelessness for a broad audience in 10 minutes is challenging, so I always try to ensure that people leave understanding three important concepts:

1. Homelessness is unacceptable, and we should not allow it to happen in our country. Seeing people living on our streets has become a normal part of the urban landscape, which is a sad reality that shouldn’t be.

2. People experiencing homelessness are just that—people—who did not plan on or choose to be in their current situation. Yes, I said that homelessness is not a choice. People will choose housing if given the opportunity, and do not confuse housing with shelter.

3. Homelessness can be solved. We have seen it happen in communities across the country for homeless veterans and those experiencing chronic homelessness. It’s not an easy problem to solve, but it can be done.

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

San Diego is Doing Something Right for Homeless Veterans…What’s Next?

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Homeless VeteransThe 2017 San Diego Point In Time (PIT) count data, released in April, showed that homelessness has risen, and unsheltered homelessness has increased significantly. This was not surprising. If you have driven around San Diego lately, in nearly every community in the region you can visibly see people sleeping outside. Although the overall results are dismal, one statistic provided a little glimmer of hope.

From 2016 to 2017, homelessness among veterans decreased 9%, continuing a trend that has resulted in a 29% overall decrease in veteran homelessness since 2013.

So San Diego is doing something right with Veterans but what is it? When I pondered this question, the usual things came to mind first. San Diego has participated with the great folks at Community Solutions in the 25 Cities initiative and is still involved in the Built for Zero effort. San Diego has focused on Rapid Re-Housing (RRH) in the form of Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) funding and HUD VA Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers. In addition, the San Diego Housing Commission is making headway on housing 1,000 veterans as part of its Housing Our Heroes program, and both the City and the County have landlord engagement programs targeted to encourage more landlords to house homeless veterans. All of these things together most likely make up the “what” San Diego is doing to house homeless veterans.

We still counted 1,054 homeless veterans in the PIT; however, at a 9% decrease per year (although good), it will take us several more years to actually end veteran homelessness. I decided to look at some local data to figure out how we can make that 9% decrease a whole lot more and here are some thoughts:

Increase VASH Utilization. Recent figures showed that the City and County Housing Authorities combined had a 78% utilization rate as of December 31, 2016. There has been a lot of effort to improve our utilization, and local media has highlighted veterans living on the streets with vouchers in hand. Yes, we have a low vacancy rate and a housing affordability crisis but so do many communities across the country. For example, the following large metropolitan areas, some with similar housing markets, have higher VASH utilization rates: County of Los Angeles (93%), New York City (90%), Dallas (86%), Harris County (84%), and Seattle (82%). Even if we increased our percentages just 5% or 10%, fewer veterans would not be on the streets in our 2018 PIT count.

We need to get creative.  Maybe we explore roommate situations where veterans can live together in a 3-bedroom unit. Although San Diego’s vacancy rates are tight, they ease up slightly with multi-bedroom units or single family homes.  We could also explore modular units that are relatively inexpensive to bring on-ling while we actually build housing.  The City of San Jose is looking at using modular structures that have 6 bedrooms per structure with shared common spaces that meet the habitability standards so that Veterans could cash in their VASH vouchers.

Increase outreach efforts for veterans living on the streets. We should develop the capacity to engage each and every one of the 454 unsheltered veterans identified in the 2017 PIT. However, when looking at a year’s worth of regional Street Outreach data from the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), San Diego only served 245 Veterans. So how are we able to count 454 veterans living outside on a single night, but engage only half that population over the course of a year? The Street Outreach figures could be undercounted as our VA outreach programs do not use HMIS, so we don’t know those figures. Nevertheless, we should question why we are serving only half the people we count.

And keep in mind, this was not just unique to Veterans. In the 2017 PIT, there were over 5,000 unsheltered persons, and our Street Outreach programs only touched about half in a year.

Connect People Exiting from Emergency Shelter/Interim Housing to Rapid Rehousing and Permanent Supportive Housing. When looking at regional Emergency Shelter data, only 30% of veterans exited successfully and only half of those veterans exited to RRH, PSH, or another subsidized housing program. The other half left to live in their own rental housing or with friends or family members. Like it or not, emergency shelters often serve as the entry to the system, so we need to ensure that we connect veterans with housing resources while they are there.

Continue to Increase Rapid Rehousing and Decrease Transitional Housing. We served over 1,500 Veterans in RRH in a 12 month period. Of those who exited, 65% successfully went to permanent housing. This is compared to the over 1,200 Veterans we served in Transitional Housing with only 38% leaving to a permanent housing destination. We need to expand our RRH programs, and also get better at them. A 65% success rate is good, but other communities are performing at much higher levels, so we need to understand housing-based case management, core responsibilities, and other successful strategies. For Transitional Housing, we need to start thinking about how we use those beds as Interim Housing that provide veterans with a place to stay while we are working to connect them to permanent housing resources. I’ll be interested to see how San Diego responds to the massive changes coming with the VA Grant and Per Diem Program.

Invest in Prevention and Diversion Services for Veterans. In a one-year period, over 1,600 veterans entered the homeless system for the first time, including 11% who entered from living with family and friends, 5% from a permanent housing situation, 2% from “other,” and 1% from subsidized housing. This accounts for a little over 300 Veterans. Diverting even half of these veterans from entering the system would be substantial—and very doable. Of the veterans who entered from a permanent housing situation, nearly three-fourths were in their apartments for a year or longer. With the right prevention strategies such as rental assistance and landlord mediation, many of these veterans could likely remain in their homes. Oh, and San Diego has experience doing prevention and diversion with veterans through the Veteran Homelessness Prevention Demonstration (VHPD) program that was in operation a few years back.

Better Understand the Link Between Exiting RRH to HUD VASH. Of the 787 Veterans who exited successfully from an RRH program (most of them from the SSVF program), 35% exited to a VASH subsidized unit. We need to better understand this phenomenon. Are we using RRH as a bridge to a VASH voucher? If so, how long is the “bridge?” Is this a population that needs more support than RRH can provide? If so, how are we making that determination? None of this is a bad thing. We just need to explore how we can best use our resources.

San Diego has made some great strides with homeless veterans. However, it will take us a while before all veterans in our community have a place to call home if the rate of homelessness decreases only 9% per year. By understanding what has led to the decreases, we can try to refine and replicate those solutions for other populations.

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

The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco – Invest in Results Because Outcomes Matter

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Federal Reserve of SFSocial impact bonds and Pay for Success models offer the private sector a mechanism to invest in evidence-based programs that reduce long-term costs to society and yield significant social impacts. Outcomes investing has become the norm for foundations as well, offering opportunities for philanthropy to leverage funding with public and private sector financing.

On June 13th, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the Nonprofit Finance Corp. focused on the importance of “Investing in Results” at a one-day conference in the Bay Area. Featured presenters addressed the question “What does it take to measure and fund positive social change?” The event explored how service providers, government, philanthropy, and others are working together to address entrenched social issues in our communities and focus on long-term solutions. The presenters included leaders in the fields of philanthropy, public-private financing, affordable housing, healthcare, homelessness services, workforce development, and outcomes investing who discussed how funding systems can be changed to orient all stakeholders around outcomes, what outcomes-based funding models look like, and what is involved in developing them.

Key speakers and topics included:

• Antony Bugg-Levine, CEO, Nonprofit Finance Fund – “Introduction from Nonprofit Finance Fund”
• Fred Ali, President and CEO, Weingart Foundation and Fred Blackwell, CEO, The San Francisco Foundation – “Funding an Outcomes World”
• Sam Schaeffer, Executive Director and CEO, Center for Employment Opportunities – “Building a Culture of Continuous Improvement From Success to Failure”
• Carrie McKellogg, Chief Program Officer, The Roberts Enterprise Development Fund – “Mind the Gap: Social Enterprise as Outcomes Driven Workforce Solution“
• Tyler Norris, Chief Executive, Well Being Trust – “Creating a Market that Values Health”
• Don Howard, President and CEO, The James Irvine Foundation – “Promise and Pitfalls of Prioritizing Outcomes in Foundation Strategy”

Jennifer LeSar, LDC CEO, who attended the conference, said the presentations clearly underscored a common principle — “if the envisioned results can’t be credibly measured, even the most promising systems change will not be funded.” LDC staff are working with numerous clients to create organizational cultures, structures, and data-driven systems change that will improve outcomes for service providers and regional coalitions tasked with solving homelessness, affordable housing availability, and other major social problems.

My Four Takeaways from Denver Summit on Supportive Housing

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Denver HousingIn May, several LDC colleagues and I attended the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) Summit in Denver. The conference brought together hundreds of thought leaders in the field of supportive housing to share trends, hands-on experiences, and ideas. We also enjoyed Denver’s craft beer scene, and the conference swag and endless supply of fresh coffee provided by our hosts. Here are my takeaways from the conference sessions:

Partnerships: CSH CEO Deb de Santis led a lively lunch session with pictures from Jaws to emphasize her message for the need to build a bigger boat. She was alluding to the idea of bringing more partners that have a stake in ending homelessness—healthcare, criminal justice, and child welfare—to the table to work toward solutions. Many of the conference sessions highlighted the role of each of these sectors, and one session was completely devoted to understanding the different language used to talk about healthcare and housing.

Another lunch session highlighted the collaboration among health and housing partners in Portland, Oregon, to develop new units of affordable and supportive housing. The session provided attendees with a concrete example of the innovative partnerships and financing approaches that can be developed when people are willing to come together and think big.

Data Integration: Cross-sector data integration innovations are happening across the country. For example, many communities have undertaken projects to connect their Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) data with criminal justice and healthcare data to identify overlapping populations and target resources more efficiently. The key with these efforts will be sustainability and keeping data updated and fresh.  Many communities have done one-off pilots and integrated data from multiple systems to create frequent user lists or to inform policy decisions, which is great, but these become static.  Innovative technology will be needed for ongoing impact and decision making.

System Redesign: I also attended a half day pre-conference institute that showcased Houston’s homeless system redesign. Houston is well-known for effectively changing their homeless system and the leadership involved to coalesce a community around a common goal. What intrigued me most, however, were the ways they utilize their emergency shelter and transitional housing programs—two things that many communities across the country are in the midst of addressing.

Political Leadership: On the last day of the conference, the Mayor of Denver addressed the audience. I was impressed with both his charisma and his clear commitment to finding innovative solutions to assist underserved populations, especially those experiencing homelessness, in his city. Recently, the City of Denver released a short-term strategy that specifically addresses housing, health, and employment. Denver is also operating a Pay for Success initiative targeted at people who are chronically homeless.

While I enjoyed the conference sessions and discussions with colleagues from across the country, the swag I picked up was the clear highlight at home. My kids loved the new CSH florescent orange silly putty, and I even gave in and bought my kids some Denver Bronco souvenirs. Although I’m a diehard Chargers fan, my son said that he’s thinking of rooting for the Broncos, which might not be a bad idea now that the Chargers have moved to LA.

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

California Legislature — Key 2017 Housing Bills Advancing Forward

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May 31st was the deadline for bills introduced this year to move out of their house origin in time to be fully considered by the State Legislature. Key housing-related bills that have advanced forward include the following:

• SB 35 (Wiener). Planning and Zoning: This bill streamlines, incentivizes and removes local barriers to creating affordable housing projects in all communities, including those failing to meet regional housing needs contained in their housing element.

• SB 2 (Atkins; 12 co-authors), the Building Homes and Jobs Act, would establish a permanent, ongoing source of funding dedicated to affordable housing development by imposing a fee of $75 on recorded real estate documents, not to exceed $225 per transaction. The bill authorizes use of funds for community plan updates as well as affordable housing development.

• SB 3 (Beall), the Affordable Housing Bond Act of 2018, authorizes the issuance of bonds for $3 billion to finance various existing housing programs (including Multi-family Rental Housing, Transit-Oriented Development and the Infill Incentive Grant Program), as well as infill infrastructure financing and affordable housing matching grant programs. This bill would be subject to voter approval at the November 6, 2018 statewide general election.

• AB 71 (Chiu). Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC): This bill increases the aggregate housing credit dollar amount that may be allocated among low-income housing projects to $300 million and would allocate $500,000 to farmworker housing projects per year.

• AB 71 (Chiu; Co-authors: Ting and Mullin) Bring California Home Act: This bill provides an ongoing state funding source for affordable housing by eliminating the state mortgage interest deduction on vacation homes. The funds saved as a result of eliminating the deduction would then increase the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program by $300 million per year. The bill also increases state funding for Farmworker Housing to $25 million.

• AB 74 (Chiu) creates the Housing for a Healthy California Program to provide rental assistance to individuals who are homeless and receive services from the Whole Person Care pilot program, Health Homes, or another locally controlled funding source. Passed by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on May 26th.

• AB 45 (Thurmond) requires the California Housing Finance Agency to provide financing assistance to qualified school districts and developers to create affordable rental housing for school employees, including teachers. The bill would transfer $100 million from the General Fund to a School Employee Housing Assistance Fund.

California Economic Summit Will Be Held in San Diego in November

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EconSummitThe sixth annual California Economic Summit will be held in San Diego on November 2-3, 2017. A group of San Diego leaders, including Jennifer LeSar, who will the chair the host committee, took the initiative to bring the Summit to their city for the first time, in keeping with the strategy of using regional solutions to drive state policy.

“I thought we had innovations here in San Diego, not only in housing but job creation and water management to showcase to the rest of the state, so I actively pursued this opportunity,” said LeSar, who has been involved in the Summit’s Housing Action Team and helped launch Housing You Matters, a San Diego Coalition striving to improve housing affordability.

The Summit’s 2017 Roadmap to Shared Prosperity presents an action plan for the One Million Challenges initiative which has three goals:
• Produce one million more skilled workers
• Build one million more housing units
• Save, capture, and reuse one million acre-feet of water annually

The California Economic Summit was developed by the California Forward and the California Stewardship Network. It is the only statewide and multi-sector effort to promote economic security.

LDC at United Way of San Diego County’s Changing the Odds Community Breakfast

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On May 10, 2017, LDC staff and guests attended the United Way of San Diego’s inaugural Changing the Odds Community Breakfast. The breakfast gathered community partners, businesses and friends together with one goal: “To change the odds for children.”

Held at the San Diego Convention Center, the event’s Keynote Speaker, Liz Murray, was a highlight of the morning. Serving as an inspiration to all and especially to children, Liz Murray went from homeless to Harvard, and is the author of Breaking Night. As noted by the United Way of San Diego, “Liz Murray’s life is a triumph over adversity and a stunning example of the importance of dreaming big.”

Free Webinar on Using GreenTRIP Connect to Win Cap and Trade Funding for Transit Oriented Developments

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Through its Toolbox Tuesdays program, the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) has announced an upcoming webinar on June 6, 2017, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on “Using GreenTrip Connect.” GreenTRIP Connect is a free statewide tool that forecasts greenhouse gas and traffic reductions, parking savings and other features on a parcel by parcel basis depending on proposed project specifications. This webinar will demonstrate how GreenTRIP Connect can directly support projects and city policies to maximize competitiveness to the Affordable Housing Sustainable Communities (AHSC) portion Cap and Trade program.

In addition to a demonstration of the program, the webinar will also provide an overview of how GreenTRIP Connect was used to support a proposed redevelopment of the Rancho Cucamonga Metrolink station into a mixed use, multi-generation transit-oriented village. Finally, there will be a presentation on how parking data will soon be included in the GreenTRIP Parking Database and the basis for a parking model in Connect for Los Angeles. The speaker will discuss how these tools can support extensive efforts on revamping CEQA transportation thresholds for affordable housing and to develop a new Transportation Demand Management (TDM) ordinance. To sign-up for the event, register at:

For more information about innovative approaches to policy and real estate development, contact Jennifer LeSar, President and CEO at

Jennifer LeSarWith 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.

President’s Budget Maintains Proposed Cuts to HUD

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The Trump Administration’s Proposed HUD Budget for 2018 was announced on May 23rd and, while providing a greater level of detail than the “skinny budget” released earlier this year, it pushes for severe cuts or modifications to existing programs. In a news release from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the agency states: “The President’s 2018 Budget continues to provide rental assistance for 4.5 million households while recognizing a greater role for State and local governments, and the private sector, to address community and economic development needs.”

HUD’s request includes $40.68 billion in gross discretionary funding with proposed reductions to be implemented primarily through rental assistance reforms and eliminating funding for programs. The Administration seeks to eliminate the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program, on the basis that: “Since 1980, and most recently in 2013, HUD studies found that CDBG is increasingly not well targeted to the poorest communities and has not demonstrated a measurable impact on communities.” Similarly, the Budget proposes the elimination of HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, HOME Investment Partnerships Program, and the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP), because “state and local governments are better-positioned to serve their communities’ needs.”

On an upbeat note, the budget plan removes the statutory limit on the number of public housing units that can participate in HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD). It also requests that senior housing developments participating in HUD’s Section 202 Program become eligible to participate in RAD to help preserve housing for the elderly. In addition, the Budget seeks $2.25 billion to help local communities house and serve persons and families who are experiencing homelessness.

In a reaction that differed forcefully from the response to the skinny budget, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers rejected President Donald Trump’s proposed budget blueprint even before it was formally released, saying that the cuts are too steep and the accounting is too unrealistic. Lawmakers said the document, which reflects the president’s broad vision, will go nowhere in Congress. Senator John Cornyn, the second ranking Republican in the Senate, called it “dead on arrival.”

For more information about innovative approaches to policy and real estate development, contact Jennifer LeSar, President and CEO at

Jennifer LeSarWith 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.