Category Archive: Homelessness

  1. California Wildfires Increase Vulnerability to Homelessness

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    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.

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

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    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.

     

     

  3. Promising Innovations: Shared Permanent Supportive Housing

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    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.

  4. Councilmember Ward Calls for Recuperative Care Facilities

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    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.

  5. Cities Can’t Prosecute Homeless People for Sleeping Outside

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    The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday, September 4, in Martin v. Boise to prohibit cities from prosecuting people for sleeping on public property or sidewalks when shelters are unavailable. The case was originally filed after six residents of the City of Boise were issued citations for violating the City’s Camping and Disorderly Conduct ordinances, which prohibited residents from sleeping in public places.

    In an opinion written by Judge Marsha S. Berzon, the court found that the City’s rules constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. The court also took issue with rules limiting the length of shelter stays and requiring people staying in shelters to participate in religious programs.

    The ruling is of particular interest in California, where high housing costs have contributed to housing instability and homelessness. For more information on the topic, read the following news articles:

    1. SF Court: Cities can’t prosecute people for sleeping on streets
    2. Homelessness: It’s not a crime to sleep on the street — absent other options, court says
    3. Homeless People Cannot Be Prosecuted by Cities for Sleeping Outside If There’s No Access to Shelter, Appeals Court Rules
    4. Cities may not prosecute homeless people for sleeping outside if they have no access to shelter, appeals court
  6. What Should Every Homelessness Plan Include? Housing

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    Image of Colorado Court _Affordable HousingEnding homelessness is simple: Provide people with a home.  While it is a straightforward solution, developing new housing takes time, is costly, and often faces community opposition. Within the existing rental market vacancy rates are low and housing is unaffordable to most, especially those at the lower end of the economic spectrum.

    Recent data make a strong case that homelessness at its core is a housing issue, regardless of other complexities within the population. The June 2018 UCLA Anderson Forecast found strong correlations between high rent and home prices and the number of people experiencing homelessness. In addition, a 2017 Zillow report indicated that a 5% increase in rent in Los Angeles County would result in 2,000 additional people losing housing.

    Recently, LeSar Development Consultants (LDC) worked with the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments (SGVCOG) to assist 17 cities in creating city-specific plans to address homelessness.  The San Gabriel Valley, although just one Service Planning Area (SPA) in Los Angeles County, has nearly 4,300 people experiencing homelessness on any given night.[1] While small in comparison to the City of Los Angeles, the San Gabriel Valley’s homeless population is larger than those of 31 states nationwide.

    In January 2018, LDC set out on a path to engage each community and their stakeholders to draft a plan for adoption by their city councils at the end of June.  The cities varied in size and demographic composition, as well as in their understanding of homelessness.  Some cities have been working proactively on the issue for years and already had solid strategies on which to build, while other cities were taking their first steps to tackle the issue. As with any project that involves people from diverse backgrounds, our team heard differing opinions on challenges, solutions, and best practices.

    Throughout the process, LDC stayed focused on the vision that housing is the best remedy for homelessness and that cities play a crucial role in encouraging development across the socioeconomic spectrum.  Specifically, cities have a lot of control when it comes to land use, zoning, and siting affordable housing, supportive housing, and shelter. Our work in the San Gabriel Valley underscored the need for all three, both locally and countywide. In fact, in February 2018 the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) released a report that identified a gap of more than 21,000 supportive housing units, 10,446 Rapid Re-Housing spots, and just over 3,000 emergency shelter beds to meet the needs of single adults across Los Angeles County. While creating more affordable and supportive housing are no-brainers, I sometimes hesitate to encourage the creation of new shelter beds. Los Angeles County, however, is an anomaly compared to the rest of the country given the sheer number of people living outdoors. Currently, the San Gabriel Valley has only 1,200 temporary housing beds. Three-quarters of the homeless population lives unsheltered on the streets and in riverbeds and canyons.

    It was exciting for our team to celebrate the adoption of the plans by each city council during the SGVCOG City Homeless Plan Summit on August 1st in San Dimas. At the summit, the SGVCOG highlighted the many cities that included strategies to address housing:

    • 16 cities included strategies for affordable housing.
    • 11 cities included strategies for supportive housing.
    • 13 included Rapid Re-Housing.
    • 8 plans included interim housing.

    Obviously, plans are only effective if they are implemented, and cities will need assistance identifying and tapping into available resources to achieve the goals outlined in their plans. However, the planning process generated regional momentum to prevent and address homelessness, and I am optimistic that SPA 3 will see declines in homelessness across the area over the next several years. Remember, ending homelessness is quite simple in concept but hard to achieve.  And it’s a reminder to always ask yourself, “Without housing, where do people ultimately go?”

    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.

    [1] 2018 Point-In-Time Count data includes the Pasadena Continuum of Care.

  7. Legislature Extends Legacy of 2017 Housing Package

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    California lawmakers continued to build on the achievements of the 2017 housing package by passing a number of bills to address the ongoing housing crisis during the final days of the 2018 legislative session, which ended on Aug. 31. While issues related to land use planning, affordable housing development, fair housing efforts, and homelessness continued to figure prominently in the debate, the Legislature also passed a number of bills to mitigate risks associated with a second crisis: wildfire disasters.  Governor Brown has until Sept. 30, 2018, to sign or veto the bills.

    Land Use Planning

    Both AB 1771 and SB 828, which are awaiting Governor Brown’s signature, would address ongoing concerns that the current Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) distribution process is more often influenced by politics rather than data on housing needs.

    AB 1771, authored by Assm. Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), would substantively change the allocation process by requiring Councils of Government (COGs) to develop their RHNA allocation methodology in consultation with the state Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) rather than waiting to consult with HCD until they are in the process of developing their allocation plans. The plans would need to integrate statutory objectives related to promoting infill development, advancing socioeconomic equity, achieving greenhouse gas targets, increasing the availability of affordable housing units relative to the number of low-wage jobs, and affirmatively furthering fair housing.

    AB 1771 also calls for COGs to employ a more transparent approach to developing and implementing the allocation process. For example, COGs would also need to electronically publish the results of its survey of members on the proposed methodology and information on how the proposed methodology achieves statutory objectives. The methodology would need to address factors such as housing need, housing burden, overcrowding, and the availability of housing to align with employment and wages. HCD would have 60 days following the public comment period to determine whether the methodology meets RHNA allocation statutory objectives. Another change contained within the bill would prohibit local governments from proposing the redistribution of housing allocations among themselves as part of an appeal process.

    SB 828, authored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), seeks to establish a more transparent, equitable process for determining each jurisdiction’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA). While each jurisdiction is required to plan for its fair share of the regional housing need, the current process does not adequately account for unmet needs due to historically low housing production. Further, the process has been criticized for favoring cities that can apply political pressure to reduce their allocations. SB 828 would allow HCD to include existing households in the number of total projected households when determining RHNA methodology. It would also prohibit COGs from using factors, such as the prior underproduction of housing or stable population numbers from the previous RHNA, in determining the jurisdiction’s future share of housing needs.

    SB 828 would further require the final regional housing need allocation plan to demonstrate government efforts to reverse racial and wealth disparities throughout a region. Specifically, COGs would be required to compare local overcrowding and vacancy rates, as well as the percentage of cost-burdened households, with those of a healthy housing market. Before passing the bill, the Assembly cut language that would have required a city or county to identify an inventory of available land equal to 125 percent of its RHNA requirements for each income category or identify zoning and other strategies to address needs.

    The Legislature also passed AB 829, which was authored by Assm. David Chiu (D-San Francisco) and designed to discourage local legislative bodies from requiring developers to obtain a letter of acknowledgement or other documentation prior to seeking state funding for a project in their district. Senate amendments refocused the bill’s language to prohibit the use of state funding in any project that requires documentation from a local legislative body or one of its members. The bill was introduced following a Los Angeles Times article on Los Angeles city councilmembers power to block housing developments in their district by requiring, but not providing, such documentation.

    In addition, AB 2923, authored by Assms. David Chiu (D-San Francisco) and Timothy Grayson (D-Concord), would streamline the approval process for transit-oriented development (TOD) on infill sites owned by Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and located within a half-mile of a BART station. The bill would also require the BART Board of Directors to establish TOD zoning standards by July 1, 2020. Cities and counties within the BART service area would have two years or until July 1, 2022, to adopt an ordinance conforming to the BART TOD zoning standards. If signed into law, the bill would enable BART to fulfill its goal of building 20,000 new units of housing, including 7,000 units of affordable housing, on the 250 acres of developable land it owns by 2040.

    Governor Brown has already signed, AB 3194, which updates the Housing Accountability Act to prohibit jurisdictions from rejecting a development of very low-income, low-income, or moderate-income housing or an emergency shelter without evidence to demonstrate that it would have a “specific, adverse impact upon the public health or safety.”  Authored by Assemb. Tom Daly (D-Santa Ana), the law prohibits jurisdictions from requiring rezoning for projects that meet objective general plan standards when local zoning is inconsistent with the general plan.

    The governor also signed AB 1406, which was authored by Assm. Todd Gloria (D-San Diego). The new law amends the Education Code to extend the allowable term of specific types of lease agreements entered into by a school district to 99 years and aligns the law with Civil Code. The Education Code had previously prevented school districts from entering a lease-leaseback agreement or lease-to-own agreement of more than 40 years with the entity that constructed the school facility. The maximum term under which school districts can co-locate with another entity through a joint-occupancy agreement has also been extended from 66 to 99 years.

    Affordable Housing Development

    Introduced by Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) and co-authored by Assms. Jesse Gabriel (D-Van Nuys) and Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego), SB 961 would streamline the process for developing affordable housing near transit in enhanced infrastructure financing districts (EIFDs) in certain situations. EIFDs are government entities established by cities or counties for the specific purpose of financing public and private infrastructure and facilities, including low- and moderate-income housing. This bill would enable EIFDs to enact and form a Second Neighborhood Infill Finance and Transit Improvement Act (NIFTI-2), which allows for the issuance of bond financing to support affordable housing near transit without voter approval.

    SB 961 also sets forth procedures public financing authorities must follow to develop and adopt an infrastructure financing plan to expend NIIFTI-2 funds. Cities or counties would be allowed to allocate tax revenues to a NIFTI-2 by adopting a resolution, under certain conditions. Specifically, the district would be required to use at least 40 percent of the total funds it receives for rental or owner-occupied housing affordable to households earning 60 percent or less of the area median income (AMI). Rental housing funded through the EIFD would need to remain affordable for 55 years, and owner-occupied housing would have affordability restrictions for 45 years. Half of the total housing funds would be used to develop permanent supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness or households earning less than 30 percent AMI.

    The bill was amended in the Assembly to require an EIFD to set aside at least 10 percent of its total funds to cover capital costs for greening efforts or active transportation capital projects. Other amendments established requirements for public hearings and guidelines to address potential landowner and resident protests of the financing plan.

    Two other bills, intended to make it easier to build accessory dwelling units, did not make it through the Legislature. AB 2890, authored by Assm. Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), would have further revised Accessory Dwelling Unit laws to prohibit local ordinances from imposing certain standards that constrain ADU development and required HCD to establish small home building standards. SB 831, introduced by Sen. Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) and coauthored by Sens. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), and Scott Wiener, would have significantly rewritten ADU statutes. The bills did not pass at least in part because local governments have only updated local ADU ordinances to comply with recent laws, which went into effect less than two years ago.

    Fair Housing

    The Legislature also took a proactive stance to ensure that all housing and community development programs combat patterns of discrimination and segregation by actively addressing disparities, promoting inclusive communities, and upholding civil rights and fair housing law regardless of whether they receive HUD funding.

    Authored by Assm. Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), AB 686 would require public agencies to be consistent with the final rule to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing, promulgated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Obama Administration. This would require Housing Elements due on or after January 1, 2021, to include an assessment of fair housing with an analysis of fair housing issues and trends contributing to disparate access to housing; goals, strategies, and actions to address factors that contribute to limited housing choice and access to opportunity; metrics to track progress toward goals; and the identification of land suitable for residential development.

    On August 28, Governor Brown signed AB 2219, authored by Assm. Phil Ting (D-San Francisco). This bill requires landlords to accept security deposits and rent from a third party in a form other than cash or electronic funds transfer. The third party must provide a signed acknowledgement that they are not the tenant. The new law seeks to prevent homelessness by requiring landlords to accept funds from individuals and/or organizations other than the tenant. The third-party payments do not constitute a contract between the landlord and third party, and the law does not prevent landlords from terminating a tenant rental agreement.

    Homelessness

    As part of ongoing efforts to address the public health impact and costs of homelessness, the Legislature passed bills to facilitate supportive housing development, support efforts to reduce youth homelessness, provide matching funds to support employment programs for people experiencing homelessness, and create the Orange County Housing Trust.

    Jointly authored by Assms. David Chiu and Tom Daly, AB 2162 expedites supportive housing development by making it a by-right use in multifamily and mixed use zones under certain conditions. The bill would allow ministerial approval of projects that are 100 percent affordable for low-income households earning up to 80 percent of AMI if 25 percent or 15 of the units, whichever is greater, are set aside for supportive housing. Projects would be required to have a 55-year affordability restrictions, no minimum parking requirements for supportive housing units located within a half-mile of transit, and a plan for on-site supportive services with named partners, proposed funding sources, and staffing commitments. Senate amendments would cap by-right development requirements at 50 units or less in cities or unincorporated areas of a county with a population of less than 200,000 and an annual Point-In-Time count of less than 1,500, although a city or county could approve by-right development for projects of over 50 units. If signed by Governor Brown, the bill would apply to all areas even where local governments are meeting RHNA.

    A second bill, SB 1152, authored by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-Montebello), would require hospital discharge policies and procedures to include specific processes for discharging people experiencing homelessness to ensure that they are not discharged without having a safe place to go. The law would require hospitals to inquire about an individual’s housing status; notify patients about options for housing, shelter, and supportive services based on their best interest and preferences; and identify a post-discharge destination. Assembly amendments eliminate requirements related to coordinating referrals and providing transportation in excess of 30 minutes or 30 miles, and delay implementation until July 1, 2019. In addition, hospitals would be required to maintain a discharge log of patients experiencing homelessness rather than report to the Office of State Health Planning and Development.

    The Legislature also passed SB 918, known as the Homeless Youth Act of 2018 and co-authored by Sen. Scott Wiener and Assm. Blanca Rubio (D-Baldwin Park), which would establish additional requirements for the Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council focused on the specific needs of youth experiencing homelessness. As of the January 2017 Point-In-Time Count, California was home to more than 15,000 homeless youth, 38 percent of the total homeless youth population nationwide. The requirements include setting goals and outcomes measures; enhancing systems integration and coordination; guiding the coordination of policy, practice, and funding in coordination with stakeholders; identifying best practices; and, providing program development and technical assistance, as funding is available. Assembly amendments eliminated a grant program focused on youth homelessness.

    If signed into law, AB 3085, authored by Assm. Ian Calderon (D-Whittier), would establish the New Beginnings California Program within the Department of Community Services and Development. The program would provide up to $50,000 in matching funding for up to 50 cities or Continuum of Care (CoC) programs to pursue a homeless employment program of their own or expand on an existing one. Cities and CoCs would be able to contract with a qualifying local service provider to operate the program. To qualify, programs would need to connect individuals experiencing homelessness and living in supportive housing with employment through the city, a contracted service provider, or a private entity or prepare people for employment by providing relevant services and resources. Hourly wages must meet or exceed minimum wage. The city or CoC would be required to provide matching funds from charitable contributions or other grant funding.

    AB 448, authored by Assms. Tom Daly and Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton), would allow Orange County and any city in the county to create the Orange County Housing Trust, a joint powers authority (JPA) that can receive public and private funding and authorize debt instruments to streamline shelter and permanent supportive housing development. The JPA would fund the development of housing for individuals and families experiencing homelessness or those with extremely low- to low incomes within Orange County. The legislation was propelled forward by an Orange County Grand Jury report on the benefits of supportive housing and a UC Irvine study that showed the County could save an estimated $42 million on healthcare, law enforcement, and other local and county expenditures by funding supportive housing. The County would also be able to better leverage available funding to attract increased funding from the state.

    One of the bills that stalled in the Legislature was SB 792, which would have required the Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council to develop and implement a statewide strategic plan to assist CoC lead agencies better implement HUD-recommended activities and better meet HUD requirements.  SB 1010, which would have created a pilot program to provide supportive housing to parolees with mental health conditions experiencing homelessness, also did not pass the Assembly Committee on Appropriations, in part because the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has already established a similar program with one county and because it would require CDCR to pay for mental health treatment for which counties already receive funding.

    Wildfire and Disaster Mitigation

    Governor Brown has already signed AB 1797, the first of several bills to result from the state’s most disastrous wildfire season on record. Authored by Assm. Marc Levine (D-San Rafael), the law will require insurers to conduct a replacement cost estimate that conforms to the State Department of Insurance’s methodology and rules when they sell or renew a residential insurance policy. This bill originated following recent wildfires, after which numerous consumers learned that their insurance coverage was based on outdated replacement costs and therefore inadequate to fully cover the cost of repairing or rebuilding their homes.

    SB 824, authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), would further protect consumers by preventing insurers from cancelling or not renewing residential insurance policies in fire-prone regions unless such actions were related to nonpayment, conviction of a crime related to increasing a property hazard, or fraud. Amendments specify that the regulations would not apply if the policy renewal threatened the insurer’s financial solvency.

    SB 894, authored by Sens. Bill Dodd (D-Napa) and Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) and co-authored by Assemb. Levine, would allow disaster victims with insufficient insurance coverage on their primary dwelling to combine payments under other policy limits up to the total cost of rebuilding or replacing the home. Insurers would also be required to renew policies for at least two renewals or 24 months, with a 12-month extension, following a total loss.

    Two companion bills, AB 1772 and AB 1800, each address different aspects of the Senate bill. AB 1772, authored by Assms. Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa) and Cecilia Aguilar-Curry (D-Winters), would give wildfire victims 36 months to rebuild their homes and businesses following a catastrophic wildfire and extend the time policyholders can collect the full amount of the insurance payment. AB 1800, authored by Assemb. Marc Levine, would permit policyholders to collect the full replacement cost of their home after a total loss, even if they opted not to rebuild, decided to replace the home at another location, or purchased a home elsewhere.

    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 seven Housing Elements and eight Consolidated Plans for jurisdictions throughout California. She can be reached at diana@lesardevelopment.com.

    Kris 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.

     

     

     

     

     

  8. State Funding Opportunities to Address Homelessness

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    Image of a Homelessness Encampment in Oakland

    California is making three new funding opportunities available to help communities statewide to address homelessness. Two of the grant opportunities—the Homeless Emergency Aid Program and the California Emergency Solutions and Housing Program—are both part of a 2018 amendment to SB 850 totaling more than $550 million.

    Homeless Emergency Aid Program

    The Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP), managed by the Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council (HCFC), represents $500 million in one-time, flexible block grants available to communities. The program provides $250 million for Continuums of Care (CoCs) based on 2017 Point-in-Time Count numbers, $150 million in direct allocation to cities of less than 330,000 people, and $100 million to CoCs based on their percentage of the total statewide homeless population.

    Eligible activities include emergency housing vouchers, rapid re-housing, emergency shelter construction, the use of armories to provide temporary shelter, and other activities. To be eligible for funding, a city, county, or joint power of authority must officially declare an emergency shelter crisis (although waivers may be available for smaller cities). The grants are intentionally flexible and meant to provide a one-time injection of funding while communities wait for supportive housing to be built. The program also aims to provide a flexible complement to other funding.

    The notice of funding availability (NOFA) will be released on Sept. 5 and closes Dec. 31, 2018. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, and HCFC encourages early applications. Additional information, including workshops, FAQs, maps, guidance, and other details, is available on the HCFC website.

    California Emergency Solutions and Housing Program

    The California Emergency Solutions and Housing program (CESH), managed by the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), provides $53 million in five-year emergency solutions grants. Eligible applicants must be administrative entities—local governments, nonprofit organizations, and unified funding agencies—designated by the CoC.

    CESH funds may be used for five eligible activities: housing relocation and stabilization, operating subsidies provided as reserves for new and existing supportive housing, flexible housing subsidy funds, operating support for emergency housing interventions, and systems support. CESH funds may also be used to develop or update Coordinated Entry Systems (CES), Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS), or homelessness plans where needed.

    Entities requesting an award by early November 2018 must apply on or before Sept. 27, 2018. The last day to apply is Oct. 15, 2018.

    Workshops are scheduled for Sept. 7 and 10, 2018. Information about the workshops, as well as the NOFA, application, FAQs, formula allocation, and details about eligible activities are available on the HCD website.

    No Place Like Home Program (NPLH)

    Counties may also apply to HCD for No Place Like Home (NPLH) funding contingent on voter approval in November 2018. Counties may use these funds to acquire, design, construct, rehabilitate, or preserve permanent supportive housing for persons who are experiencing or at risk of chronic homelessness and who need mental health services. The funds must be used for supportive housing that uses low-barrier tenant selection practices and provides voluntary, individualized supportive services. Counties must also commit to providing mental health services and coordinating other supportive services as a condition of funding.

    Counties may apply for the funds, which are categorized as loans repayable to the state, on either a non-competitive or competitive basis.

    The non-competitive allocation of approximately $190 million, will be distributed on a formula basis to each county based on their 2017 homeless Point-in-Time Count. Each county that applies will receive a minimum allocation of $500,000. Project applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until Feb. 15, 2021.

    Up to $1.8 billion will be made available through the competitive application process with an anticipated $200 million available in the first round, which is expected to open in fall 2018. Counties will compete for funding in groups based on population size:

    Los Angeles County
    Large counties (population greater than 750,000)
    Medium counties (population between 200,000 to 750,000)
    Small counties (population less than 200,000)

    HCD may designate Los Angeles County and other counties with 5 percent or more of the state’s homeless population to self-administer their NPLH fund allocations using an HCD-approved distribution method. Additional information about the program is available on the HCD website.

    Image of LDC Association Maureen RicheyMaureen Richey, Associate, specializes in strategies to address criminal justice recidivism among individuals with mental illness and housing instability.  She has also worked for the Council of States Governments Justice Center, the Alliance for Children and Families, and ICF International.  She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago and a master’s degree in Public Policy from Duke University. She can be reached at maureen@lesardevelopment.com.

  9. Homeless Advocates Gather in Nation’s Capital

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    LDC team members Erica Snyder, Kris Kuntz, and Brian Gruters at NAEH

    LDC team members Erica Snyder, Kris Kuntz, and Brian Gruters at NAEH

    The National Alliance to End Homelessness conference, held annually in our nation’s capital, is the mecca for forward-thinking homeless advocates, and the best place in America to be a housing nerd. It’s one of very few places you’ll hear a din of voices discussing “Dynamic prioritization!” or “Multi-sector interoperability!” across a hotel lobby.

    The lobby is where the action is, by the way. Some people attend workshop sessions at the conference, but the lobby and adjacent bar are where practitioners, administrators, and consultants go to talk shop. I met a woman from Atlanta who flew in for three days just to sit in the lobby; she didn’t even register for the conference. People from everywhere bustle around this housing Hogwarts jabbering about subsidies, models, pilots, and every imaginable type of data. There’s bad data, good data, great data, incomplete data, data pulls, data dashboards, data gurus: all because the NAEH promotes data-driven solutions to homelessness. This approach is the reason the organization leads the field.

    Even these advocates have to take a break and the sessions offer a place to recharge, listen to ideas, ask questions, and connect with people with similar interests. Of the sessions I attended, the most memorable was the one on emergency shelter best practices. In a live poll, the presenters asked attendees to respond to the comparison, “Emergency shelter is to harm reduction as…” They offered a list of analogies, from which “Ernie is to Bert” emerged as the answer: “odd fellows who somehow get along.” The speakers encouraged us to be “radically welcoming” toward shelter consumers when considering safety and security policies.

    Presenters placed an emphasis on diversion during the conference. In one session, a speaker from Pierce County in Washington State talked about how the county diverted 25 percent of shelter stayers to help outside the Continuum of Care. The Mayor of Washington, DC, described how her city diverted 5,700 individuals last year. This pressure release allowed both Washingtons to care for a higher percentage of individuals experiencing homelessness. In DC, this led to a 40 percent overall reduction in homelessness in 2017-2018.

    The final day of the conference is Hill Day, during which some conference-goers visit members of Congress and advocate for legislation. Six delegates from San Diego loaded into two taxis, brushed up on local and national talking points en route, and stormed the Capitol. We spoke with Representatives Scott Peters and Juan Vargas and thanked both for supporting permanent authorization of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and opposing workforce requirements and H.R. 1511/S. 611, which would divert funds away from the nation’s most vulnerable individuals and families.

    Senator Kamala Harris at the National Alliance to End Homelessness Conference

    Senator Kamala Harris at the National Alliance to End Homelessness Conference

    Senator Kamala Harris spoke at the conference about her recently announced Rent Relief Act, which would create a refundable tax credit for people making less than $100,000 per year and paying more than 30 percent of their income toward rent and utilities. Not to gush, but all the Californians in the room walked with a little extra swagger after she spoke about this being “an inflection moment in the history of our country” that our sons and daughters would ask us about one day. Housing people living in poverty, she pointed out, is doing something worthy of that moment.

    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. His work there involved policy analysis, program management, and technical assistance around CES. He has also worked for Breaking Ground (formerly Common Ground) and the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board in the City of New York, where his work centered on permanent supportive housing management, development of limited‐equity housing, and community organizing. He can be reached at brian@lesardevelopment.com.

  10. State Homeless Council Chair Announces Plan for Emergency Aid

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    Image of CA Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council websiteAt the July 2018 meeting of the California Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council (HCFC), Council Chair Alexis Podesta announced plans for distributing $500 million in emergency funding to help local governments address homelessness. To receive Homeless Emergency Aid Program funding, jurisdictions must declare an emergency shelter crisis and local Continuums of Care must demonstrate strong coordination between cities and counties. The HCFC anticipates that the NOFA will be released by the end of September 2018, with funds distributed on a rolling basis until January 31, 2019, one month following the close of the application period. In addition, the HCFC anticipates that Round 2 funding will open in April 2019.

    The HCFC also reviewed and adopted assessments that covered the extent to which the California Tax Allocation Committee (TCAC) and California Housing Financing Agency (CalHFA) programs employ a Housing First approach. The assessment found that the TCAC Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program currently does not set tenant eligibility or programmatic requirements other than those based on income and recommended that it amend its regulations to require projects that serve homeless households to use the Housing First model. The CalHFA assessment of its Special Needs Housing/Mental Health Services Act program resulted in similar findings, as well as recommendations to update its term sheets. Both agencies used the Housing First Checklist adopted by the HCFC at its April 2018 meeting. The HCFC will receive assessments from the state Department of Health Care Services and Department of Veterans Affairs at its October 2018 meeting.

    Finally, the HCFC received reports on three additional priorities related to the implementation of Housing First guidelines and regulations:

    1. Statewide homeless data integration project. This project would help state leaders better understand how to target funding to communities, populations, and interventions to achieve the greatest impact. The recommendations, which are based in part on a review of HMIS solutions implemented statewide, include acquiring an off-the-shelf solution, leveraging the HUD HMIS data structure, analyzing statewide HMIS security standards, creating participation incentives, and providing options for direct data entry for small Continuums of Care (CoC) with fewer resources, among others. The HCFC also received a presentation from Santa Clara County Consortium about the benefits of using an integrated data system to inform policy and program decisions.
    2. Homeless housing and interventions needs assessment. The HCFC discussed a phased approach to a needs assessment designed to help stakeholders quantify the level of need and resources required to functionally end homelessness. The assessment would incorporate statewide data and research, data from CoCs with the largest homeless populations, and snapshots of two to six other CoCs representing the geographic and population diversity of the state.
    3. Catalog of state-administered homeless programs. The catalog (Appendix D of the HCFC staff report) provides information on programs providing housing and housing-based services, including the funding agency, eligible uses of funding, applicant eligibility, available funding, and upcoming funding cycles.