California Wildfires Increase Vulnerability to Homelessness

Comments Off on California Wildfires Increase Vulnerability to Homelessness

California’s efforts to tackle the affordable housing and homelessness crisis experienced yet another setback last month when two wildfires broke out in Northern and Southern California.  The Camp Fire, which engulfed parts of Butte County, quickly became the state’s deadliest and most destructive wildfire. Officials estimate that the fire consumed more than 150,000 acres, destroyed over 18,000 structures, and claimed 85 lives. The Woolsey Fire killed two people in Malibu and another in Agoura Hills and destroyed 1,452 structures while damaging another 337.

The damage from this year’s Camp Fire surpassed that of last year’s Tubbs Fire, which killed 44 people and destroyed over 9,000 structures in Napa and Sonoma Counties. The City of Santa Rosa was the hardest-hit with entire neighborhoods destroyed.

Fires Fuel Housing Instability

Remains of a house in Santa Rosa, after the October 2017 Northern California wildfires.

The wildfires highlight, and even exacerbate, the vulnerability and housing instability experienced by an increasing number of low- and moderate-income Californians. The town of Paradise, which lost 90 percent of its housing stock in the Camp Fire, had a median home price of $200,900, well below California’s median price of $578,850. The town’s residents—mainly lower-income workers and retirees—will struggle to find new housing amid California’s housing shortage and soaring housing costs. Moreover, many residents have lost their jobs due to the destruction of the town’s infrastructure. Without the means to leave the town, some will remain in evacuation shelters.

Although the Red Cross set up six official shelters, a number of evacuees set up encampments elsewhere following a norovirus outbreak. Others found shelter in relatives’ homes, with as many as 20 people staying in one home at a time, creating severe overcrowding.

Officials worry that, even with help from state and federal aid, a “secondary increase” in homelessness may occur due to added pressures on the area’s housing stock.  A rural community, such as Butte County, has a limited housing supply and the squeeze on resources will be severe. Ed Mayer, executive director of the Butte County Housing Authority, estimates that 6,000 to 7,000 displaced households will be unable to find housing in the county.[7] If the needs of these low- and middle-income survivors are not met, homelessness could increase. At greatest risk are low-income households who lack insurance and who could soon go from staying in hotels to living in their cars or on the streets.

Rebuilding Efforts Should Anticipate a New “Normal”

Earlier this year, the Sonoma County Community Development Commission released a report that showed a six percent increase in homelessness in 2018 compared to the previous year, and 24 to 35 percent increase in first-time homelessness– indicating that the fires played a role in residents’ living situation.

While rebuilding efforts in Northern California are only just beginning following last year’s blaze, the City of Santa Rosa reported 765 units were under construction and permits for another 181 units had been issued as of October 2017. [8] Diana Elrod, Principal, has been working with the Sonoma County Community Development Commission to create a strategic plan to move the county forward in the wake of the fires and secure funding to support the rebuilding plan.

Given the effects of climate change, Californians should prepare for scenarios in which wildfire damage becomes the “new normal.” Technological advancements are also needed to help protect people living in fire-prone areas. Numerous reports from 2017’s wildfires recounted stories of people who struggled to open their garage doors manually, especially elderly victims. One example of an effort to increase protection from wildfire damage and injury is a new California law that requires automatic garage doors sold in the state to include a back-up battery that can provide power in the event of power outage.

Last year’s wildfires also spurred new legislation to help homeowners rebuild. These laws give victims up to 36 months to rebuild their homes and businesses (SB 1772), allow homeowners with insufficient coverage to combine payments under other policy limits to cover rebuilding costs (SB 894), and permit policyholders to collect the full replacement cost of their home even if they choose not to rebuild or opt to relocate (AB 1800). Other new laws require insurers to follow specific guidelines for conducting replacement cost estimates (AB 1797) and prevent insurers from cancelling or not renewing policies in fire prone regions (SB 824).

Headshot of LDC Principal Kris KuntzKris Kuntz, Principal, is passionate about creating innovative solutions to address homelessness. Prior to joining LDC, he performed agency-wide evaluation activities for San Diego’s largest homeless services agency, that included a drop day center, emergency shelter, transitional housing, rapid re-housing, permanent supportive housing, and a federally qualified health center.  He was an integral part of Project 25, San Diego’s successful homeless high utilizer project and worked with Managed Care Organizations to sustain the project after the United Way’s initial investment. To learn more about LDC’s work with homeless assistance systems, contact him at kris@lesardevelopment.com.

Diana ElrodDiana Elrod, Principal, brings more than 30 years of consulting and public sector experience to her work co-leading LDC’s housing policy and real estate finance team. Before joining LDC, she provided strategic counsel and conducted research on Housing and Community Development for the Cities of Lafayette, Belmont, Palo Alto, San Jose, San Mateo, and the County of Santa Clara. She also has completed Housing Elements and Consolidated Plans for jurisdictions throughout California. She can be reached at diana@lesardevelopment.

Housing Policy Course Returns Spring 2019

Comments Off on Housing Policy Course Returns Spring 2019
Sen. Toni Atkins speaking at HPLA

CA Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins speaking at the Housing Policy Leadership Academy

LeSar Development Consultants’ Housing Policy Leadership Academy is back! The course is a multi-week, intensive learning opportunity for emerging leaders in the San Diego region. Designed for both newcomers and experienced professionals in housing policy, the course covers a broad range of topics including federal policy, state and local policy, housing finance, urban design, and equity issues. Last year’s course speakers included California Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, San Diego City Councilmember Georgette Gomez, and San Diego Housing Commission CEO Rick Gentry, as well as prominent developers, planners, and housing policy thought leaders.

The Housing Policy Leadership Academy is maintaining an interest list for its Spring 2019 course.

Opportunities to register will be announced through LDC’s newsletter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Please email Sarah Snook with any questions.

New Toolkit Highlights Cross-Sector Data Sharing to Improve Housing, Health, and Human Services Outcomes

Comments Off on New Toolkit Highlights Cross-Sector Data Sharing to Improve Housing, Health, and Human Services Outcomes

Cover of Community Information Exchange Toolkit

As communities nationwide grapple with how to reduce disparities in health and well-being outcomes based on where they live and access to resources, local leaders are increasingly looking for solutions that promote data sharing and cross-sector collaboration. Recognizing this opportunity, 2-1-1 San Diego recently released a toolkit that highlights the development and evolution of a Community Information Exchange (CIE), which improves care coordination by enabling housing, health, and social services providers to engage in cross-sector data sharing.

The toolkit, which was funded by the Schultz Foundation, provides information on essential strategies for creating a CIE, including fostering a network of community partners, establishing a governance structure and compliance framework, developing data-sharing technology, and ensuring long-term sustainability.

The toolkit also highlights the centrality of creating longitudinal records that store information about each individual’s situation and history across multiple service providers. For example, when a homeless services provider updates a client’s move from a shelter to permanent housing in the Homeless Management Information System, the CIE will automatically notify partners who provide the person’s health care or food assistance benefits. Keeping all partners in the loop reduces the burden historically put on individuals experiencing crises to be proactive about accessing services, and instead allows partners to provide an extra layer of support and referrals to additional services.

In addition, the data generated through ongoing use of the CIE provides communities with insights about the barriers and opportunities associated with improving outcomes at the population level. For more information about the CIE, visit www.ciesandiego.org to download the toolkit or sign up for an upcoming webinar.

Headshot of LDC Principal Kris KuntzKris Kuntz, Principal, is passionate about creating innovative solutions to address homelessness. Prior to joining LDC, he performed agency-wide evaluation activities for San Diego’s largest homeless services agency, that included a drop day center, emergency shelter, transitional housing, rapid re-housing, permanent supportive housing, and a federally qualified health center.  He was an integral part of Project 25, San Diego’s successful homeless high utilizer project and worked with Managed Care Organizations to sustain the project after the United Way’s initial investment. To learn more about LDC’s work with homeless assistance systems, contact him at kris@lesardevelopment.com.

Jessica Ripper, Senior Associate, manages marketing and business development and covers organizational development and systems change, with an emphasis on health and human services. She specializes in partnering with multidisciplinary teams to advance policies and programs to improve the quality of life for children and families, and has extensive experience translating complex social issues into compelling stories, reports, training curricula, and tools that influence the media, policymakers, donors, and community leaders to take action. While at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Ms. Ripper helped to develop Evidence2Success, a framework to guide public investment in evidence-based programs for children and youth by strengthening partnerships among public systems, schools, and communities. She can be reached at jessica@lesardevelopment.com.

 

 

Promising Innovations: Shared Permanent Supportive Housing

Comments Off on Promising Innovations: Shared Permanent Supportive Housing

Across California, the heightened urgency associated with addressing the housing crisis has prompted a range of innovations. In Los Angeles, Flyaway Homes has become one of those innovators. They are using shipping containers – the corrugated steel metal boxes you see hauled around on semi-trucks and freight trains – to develop a model of shared-unit Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) to reduce homelessness.

While shipping containers have been used for everything from boutique homes to commercial development, they have not factored significantly into efforts to reduce the slow pace and high cost of PSH development. Last month, LDC had an opportunity to attend an open house at Flyaway’s first shared-unit PSH development, located at 820 West Colden Avenue in Los Angeles. We got a feel for the place (it’s nice) and talked a little shop about how the model improves upon traditional PSH development.

Colden Avenue DevelopmentThe shipping containers, which are used for modular construction, are the most obvious innovation. This approach allows PSH units to be permitted prior to construction and assembled quickly, eliminating a portion of the soft costs associated with most new construction. For example, the Colden project took approximately 10 months to plan and develop, as compared to traditional approaches, which can take years.

The nine-unit development also uses a shared housing model, providing a home for 32 tenants (and an onsite property manager) who each have their own room and share a kitchen and bathroom with three other neighbors.

Shared housing is an important resource in the effort to reduce homelessness, but it’s rare to see a developer integrate the model into the budget and design of a newly-constructed property. Doing this has allowed the developer to finish the project at a similar price point to other PSH developments, but at a much lower cost per tenant – $109,000, including the cost of the land.

Flyaway COO Kevin HiraiFlyaway COO Kevin Hirai explained that to make the project financially sustainable the company secured a 20-year master lease with local homeless services provider the People Concern, which guarantees supportive services for the tenants and rental income for the property for the duration of the lease. The services will be paid for by the Los Angeles Department of Health Services’ Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool program, which offers versatile rental subsidies for individuals experiencing homelessness.

Flyaway’s model relies solely on private equity to fund development, another way it differs significantly from the majority of PSH development. For the Colden Avenue project, investors contributed to the $3.6 million budget with a guaranteed return of 4.5-5 percent, paid for with the rental income generated by the property. Hirai explained that this approach to financing allowed the company to raise the initial capital very quickly and avoid some of the red tape often associated with securing government funds.

With the low cost, rapid production time, and flexibility of the project, the most exciting aspect of Flyaway’s model is its potential scalability. Flyaway anticipates that using shared modular housing to produce PSH will become an important resource within the continuum of housing solutions for a significant portion of the population experiencing homelessness. If the model proves successful, Flyaway and other similar companies could build thousands of units relatively quickly. This is one project LDC will be watching closely.

—————–
Flyaway Home’s Colden Avenue development combines several innovative approaches to housing people experiencing homelessness under one roof:

  1. Modular construction
  2. Private equity financing
  3. Shared housing
  4. Master leasing
  5. A flexible subsidy pool

 

Brian GrutersBrian Gruters, Associate, focuses on designing systems that respond to homelessness quickly and efficiently, emphasizing harm reduction and trauma‐informed care. Before joining LDC, Mr. Gruters led development of the City of San Diego’s coordinated entry system (CES) for the San Diego Regional Task Force on the Homeless. He has also worked for Breaking Ground (formerly Common Ground) and the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board in New York City, where his work centered on permanent supportive housing management. Mr. Gruters holds a master’s degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, Canada, where he studied ecology and rural anti‐poverty movements. He can be reached at brian@lesardevelopment.com.

Proposition 10 Creates Local Rent Control Controversy

Comments Off on Proposition 10 Creates Local Rent Control Controversy

Proposition 10: Rent Control aims to repeal a law that currently prevents city and county governments from enacting rent control. Known as the Costa-Hawkins Act, the law prohibits rent control on single family homes, new housing built after February 1, 1995, or when tenants first move into a unit. If passed, Proposition 10 would restore authority to city and county governments to determine whether they should enact rent control policies and limit how much landlords could raise the rent each year.

Supporters contend that California renters currently pay 50 percent more than counterparts in other states, straining households’ ability to cover the costs of other necessities such as food, childcare, education, transportation, and healthcare. A policy brief from the Urban Displacement project concludes that the proposition would be beneficial to Bay Area renters, particularly in terms of preventing displacement. It found that including single family homes in rent control ordinances, a policy not permissible under Costa-Hawkins, could have significant impact because they make up an increasing percentage of the area’s rental stock.

However, the brief also highlights the potential unintended consequences of repealing Costa-Hawkins. In particular, the brief addresses the possibility of units being removed from the rental market. A Terner Center brief highlights other possible consequences, including the possibility of slowing already lagging production. Housing construction in California has not met growing demands, and the report notes that further shortfall would only exacerbate the housing crisis.

The Terner Center brief also highlights a more nuanced perspective: Proposition 10 aims to increase tenant protections, a necessary action given the housing crisis, but those protections do not have to be implemented in a way that affects production. Instead, they suggest modifications to Costa-Hawkins, including an “anti-gouging” rent cap and further incentives for developers to include affordable units in their market-rate developments.

Estimating the true effects of Proposition 10 is difficult due to a lack of data surrounding rental units, landlords, and tenants. Additionally, Proposition 10 allows local governments to adopt rent control, but does not require these provisions. As such it is difficult to predict the specifics of the policy across the state. However, the repeal of Costa-Hawkins and implementation of rent control has some potential to negatively impact affordable housing. If Proposition 10 passes, careful consideration will need to be given to the development of specific local policies to truly protect California’s vulnerable communities.

Jennifer LeSarJennifer LeSar, President and CEO, has more than 30 years of experience in the real estate development and investment banking industries, and brings a diverse background to her work in community development and urban revitalization. Her technical expertise spans from policy and program development to comprehensive strategic planning for top executives and executive teams to the origination and underwriting of complex investments in equity funds, multi-family portfolios, historic, and low-income tax credit properties utilizing federal and state financing programs. She can be reached at jennifer@lesardevelopment.com.

No on Prop 6: Gas Tax

Comments Off on No on Prop 6: Gas Tax

Pumping GasProposition 6 seeks to repeal the fuel tax approved by the Legislature in 2017. While proponents of the repeal measure argue that the tax will cost families an average of $700 in additional costs annually, a Sacramento Bee article suggests the true cost to California families would fall in the range of $238 to $334 per year. While these costs are not negligible, opponents argue that a No vote is necessary to addressing the backlog of transportation infrastructure needs over the next decade.

Currently, the gas tax will provide an estimated $52 billion over the next 10 years for infrastructure needs with approximately half of those funds going directly to cities and counties to address local needs. In San Diego, Proposition 6 funding is being used to widen Interstate 5, increase public transit, and resurface streets. In Los Angeles, funds are being used for a variety of active transportation projects, such as bike lanes and trails, pedestrian walkways, and ADA accommodations. Information on projects in other communities statewide can be found on the Rebuilding CA Project Map.

Jennifer LeSarWith more than 30 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 comprehensive strategic planning for top executives and executive teams to the origination and underwriting of complex investments in equity funds, multi-family portfolios, historic, and low-income tax credit properties utilizing federal and state financing programs. Ms. LeSar’s educational achievements include two advanced degrees from UCLA – a Master of Business Administration in Real Estate, Finance and Nonprofit Management and a Master of Arts in Urban Planning. She received her Bachelor of Arts from Bryn Mawr College in Political Science and Economics. She can be reached at jennifer@lesardevelopment.com.

 

Yes on Props 1, 2: Ballot Measures Critical to Developing Housing

Comments Off on Yes on Props 1, 2: Ballot Measures Critical to Developing Housing

San Diego Square Senior ApartmentsThis November, the decisions voters make about two ballot measures—the Housing Assistance Bond and No Place Like Home—the Proposition 1 Housing Assistance Bond and Proposition 2 No Place Like Home—have significant implications for California communities as they address housing affordability.

Proposition 1: Housing Assistance Bond, would allow the state to issue $4 billion in general obligation bonds to investors to fund existing affordable housing programs. Specifically, the bond would provide:

  • $1.8 million to build or renovate affordable multifamily housing;
  • $450 million for transit-oriented infrastructure development;
  • $450 million for down payment assistance or other funding to assist low- and moderate-income homebuyers;
  • $300 million for rental and owner-occupied housing for farmworkers; and
  • $1 billion for home loan assistance for veterans.

The measure, which qualified for the ballot based on a two-thirds vote from the Legislature and approval by Governor Jerry Brown as part of the 2017 Housing Package, would support an estimated 30,000 multifamily units, 7,500 farmworker households, 15,000 homebuyers, and 3,000 veterans. If passed, the measure would enable the state to provide grants or low-cost loans to local governments, nonprofits, and developers through a competitive process to fund a portion of construction costs. Interest on the bond would be repaid using the state’s General Fund at approximately $170 million annually for 35 years. While opponents chafe at the cost burden to taxpayers, supporters such as United Way, the League of Women Voters, the League of California Cities, and the California State Sheriffs’ and Firefighters’ Associations view Proposition 1 as a much-needed measure to address the affordable housing crisis and argue that a portion of the funds will be recouped as payments on home loans.

Proposition 2: No Place Like Home, if passed, would allow the state to redirect $140 million per year in Mental Health Services Act funding to repay up to $2 billion in bonds to fund permanent supportive housing for people experiencing or at-risk of homelessness who need mental health services. Counties would be able to use these funds to acquire, design, construct, rehabilitate, or preserve permanent supportive housing. Only those supportive housing developments that use low-barrier tenant selection practices and provide voluntary, individualized supportive services would be eligible for funding. Counties would also need to commit to providing mental health services and coordinating other supportive services as a condition of funding.

Currently, the state needs court or voter approval to use Mental Health Services Act funds for permanent supportive housing through No Place Like Home (NPLH). Counties will be able to apply to the California Department of Housing and Community Development for NPLH funds, which are categorized as loans repayable to the state, on either a non-competitive or competitive basis contingent on voter approval.

Research has shown that housing paired with treatment, commonly referred to as permanent supportive housing, helps people with severe mental illness live healthy, stable lives and reduces public health costs. Supporters of the measure include the California affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Opponents argue that the measure, if passed, would shift funding away from treatment for people with severe mental illness to pay for housing and does not address restrictive zoning laws that make it difficult to build housing.

Together, Propositions 1 and 2 provide significant revenue streams to address California’s growing housing affordability and homelessness crisis and aim to produce housing types California’s private market has failed to adequately produce in California. The propositions have received widespread support from organizations and elected leaders statewide, including Assm. David Chiu (D-San Francisco) and Senate President pro tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego).

Diana Elrod, Principal, brings more than 30 years of consulting and public sector experience to her work co-leading LDC’s housing policy and real estate finance team. Before joining LDC, she provided strategic counsel and conducted research on Housing and Community Development for the Cities of Lafayette, Belmont, Palo Alto, San Jose, San Mateo, and the County of Santa Clara. She also has completed Housing Elements and Consolidated Plans for jurisdictions throughout California. She can be reached at diana@lesardevelopment.com.

2-1-1 Releases Data Dashboards

Comments Off on 2-1-1 Releases Data Dashboards

In late August, 2-1-1 San Diego released a data dashboard tool designed to combine and analyze data from the agency and its many partner service organizations and transform it into easily accessible and actionable information on community assets and resources, needs, and trends used in planning.

Currently, the dashboard includes information on the activities carried out by 2-1-1 San Diego between August 2017 and July 2018, as well as information on demographics, resources, housing, nutrition, health, the social determinants of health, and utility and technology. The housing dashboard provides data on clients’ housing stability, current living situation, and the immediacy of their need for support or assistance.

Some of the housing data available through the dashboard will also be used to inform the City of San Diego FY 2020-2024 Consolidated Plan. This data should eventually be able to inform best practices in homelessness systems and public policy.

Screenshot of 2-1-1 Data Dashboard

Councilmember Ward Calls for Recuperative Care Facilities

Comments Off on Councilmember Ward Calls for Recuperative Care Facilities

Image of underutilized County Property at 3rd Street, Hillcrest, San DiegoOn Aug. 30, San Diego Councilmember Chris Ward stood in front of a vacant county-owned building in Hillcrest and called for a thorough review of vacant and underutilized city and county property that could be used for recuperative care and medical respite beds for people experiencing homelessness. Ward underscored the shortage of such facilities in a region where nearly 10,000 people are experiencing homelessness, many of them ages 55 or older with chronic health conditions. Currently, only 73 recuperative care beds, many of them designated specifically for veterans, are available countywide. Other community leaders who joined Ward at the press conference included Greg Anglea, CEO of Interfaith Community Services; Benjamin Nicholls of the Hillcrest Business Association; and Nathan Fletcher, former assemblymember turned candidate for the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

LA County Commission Advances Tejon Ranch Proposal

Comments Off on LA County Commission Advances Tejon Ranch Proposal

The Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission voted on Aug. 29 to advance a proposal to develop a significant portion of Tejon Ranch, approximately 70 miles northeast of Los Angeles. Originally proposed by the Tejon Ranch Co. in 1999, the Centennial project would provide 19,000 homes, jobs, and infrastructure to the area. Opponents have raised concerns about the environmental impact of the project, as well as the risks associated with developing in a wildfire hazard area.