Comments Off on U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee Rejects Proposed Cuts to HUD Funding
The Senate Appropriations Committee on June 7 rejected the Administration’s proposed cuts to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) budget by advancing a bill that includes $44.5 billion in discretionary appropriations, increasing funding by $1.8 billion above FY 2018 levels.
The Administration had proposed $41.2 billion in FY 2019 funding for HUD, which would have reduced funding by $11.5 billion over FY 2018, eliminated the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnership programs, and instituted higher rent levels and work requirements for some programs. The Administration’s proposal also would have resulted in shifting more of the costs of building affordable housing to state and local governments.
“This bipartisan bill is the product of considerable negotiation and compromise,” said U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), chair of the Subcommittee in an official statement. “The funding in this legislation will allow us to invest in our nation’s infrastructure, while fully funding the renewal of housing assistance for low-income seniors and other vulnerable populations, such as teenagers and veterans who are homeless.”
The bill includes $42.8 billion in rental assistance funding, which currently supports an estimated 5 million families nationwide. The budget reflects modest increases for tenant- and project-based rental assistance programs, as well as public housing capital and operating funds. Included within the rental assistance funding is $40 million for new vouchers dedicated to homeless veterans. The Administration’s FY 2019 proposed cuts to all three programs and would have eliminated capital funds to repair and maintain public housing.
The bill renews funding for Housing for the Elderly at the same level as FY 2018 and includes $51 million that would be used to produce new dedicated housing units for seniors. The bill also reduces the FY 2019 appropriation for Housing for Persons with Disabilities to $154 million; however, the decrease reflects on partial-year funding to reflect the time required to put an estimated 30,000 new vouchers funded in FY 2018 into circulation.
Community Planning and Development
Similar to the House bill, the Senate bill renews funding for community planning and development at $12.9 billion, and rejects the Administration’s proposal to eliminate the CDBG and HOME programs. These programs, which provide entitlement funds for state and local governments to build housing and address other development needs, continue to have strong bipartisan support.
Other community development initiatives funded in conjunction with the HUD appropriation include the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative and the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation. The Senate bill provides $100 million for the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, which provides funding for state and local governments to redevelop HUD-assisted housing. The bill reflects a $50 million funding cut from FY 2018, but does not eliminate the program as recommended in the Administration’s budget. The House bill proposed maintaining funding at FY 2018 levels and giving priority to previous planning grant recipients when awarding implementation grants.
The Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, which supports an estimated 250 community development organizations nationwide that provide housing and counseling services through the NeighborWorks’ network, would see a budget increase of $7 million under the Senate appropriations bill. The Administration had proposed winding down the program over two years.
The Senate bill maintains FY 2018 funding levels for the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness at $3.6 million, and increases funding for Homeless Assistance Grants by $100 million to $2.6 billion with an emphasis on housing and services for specific populations, including youth and survivors of domestic violence. Specifically, the bill includes $80 million to support Continuums of Care in developing comprehensive approaches to ending youth homelessness, and $20 million to fund 2,500 rental assistance vouchers for youth aging out of foster care. The bill also provides $50 million to assist an estimated 3,750 survivors of domestic violence to secure housing through Rapid Re-Housing programs.
The bill also includes $40 million for the HUD Veterans Assistance Supportive Housing program, providing 5,100 new vouchers for veterans experiencing homelessness.
The table below highlights how the Administration, House, and Senate FY 2019 budgets differ from the enacted FY 2018 budget:
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Program Budget
FY 2018 Enacted
FY 2019 Proposed
FY 2019 House
FY 2019 Senate
Tenant-Based Rental Assistance Programs
Project-Based Rental Assistance Programs
Public Housing Operating and Capital Funds
Housing for the Elderly
Housing for People with Disabilities (Section 811)
Community Planning and Development
Community Development Block Grant
HOME Investment Partnerships Program
Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA)
The Senate bill also includes $26.6 billion in FY 2019 discretionary appropriations for the U.S. Department of Transportation, $698 million less than the FY 2018 enacted budget. Congress must pass the FY 2019 appropriations before September 30 or issue a continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown.
Comments Off on State Auditor’s Report Calls for Coordinated Response to Homelessness
The California State Auditor on April 19 released a report that highlighted the need for a more coordinated response to homelessness at the state level to reduce the population’s exposure to communicable diseases and to mitigate the financial and physical impact of homelessness on communities.
The audit identified two key reasons California has struggled to reduce the size of its homeless population, which represents nearly a quarter (24%) of the nation’s homeless population. First, until recently California did not have a single entity with oversight for coordinating the many state-funded homeless programs. Second, the state’s investments in administering and funding homeless services are insufficient to reduce the rates of unsheltered homelessness.
To fill these gaps, the auditor’s report calls for funding to enable the statewide Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council to provide funding to hire permanent staff, oversee cross-agency coordination, and help Continuum of Care lead agencies access funding and better coordinate HUD-recommended activities such as the annual Point-in-Time Count, efforts to raise nonfederal funding, and HMIS administration and implementation. The report also calls for a statewide homelessness plan with goals, objectives, timelines, and performance metrics by April 1, 2019.
In addition to proposing action at the state level, the auditor’s report also called for improvements in how the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) evaluates and documents funding decisions. Specifically, the report noted that LAHSA “lacks the ability to adequately analyze its funding decisions based on geographic area and does not have an adequate database to track the results of its application evaluation process.”
Recommendations for LAHSA include updating and reviewing its policies and procedures on a regular basis and providing technical assistance to expand the number of service providers. The auditor’s report also recommends that LAHSA regularly track application evaluation data and analyze the results of its technical assistance.
Kris Kuntz, Senior Associate, is passionate about creating innovative solutions to address homelessness. To learn more about LDC’s work with homeless assistance systems, contact Kris Kuntz, Senior Associate, at email@example.com.
 California State Auditor. (April 2018). Homelessness in California: State Government and Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority Need to Strengthen Their Efforts to Address Homelessness.
Comments Off on LA Motel Conversion Ordinance to Increase Housing Production
On April 17, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti signed a local ordinance that will enable owners of underutilized hotels and motels to convert these facilities into transitional or supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of becoming homeless. The Los Angeles City Council had previously voted 13-0-2 in favor of the ordinance. The ordinance supports efforts outlined in the City of Los Angeles Comprehensive Homeless Strategy Report to promote the adaptive reuse of private properties that could accelerate the cost-effective development of transitional and supportive housing to provide shelter and supportive services for people experiencing homelessness. Key components of the ordinance include:
a. All units must be used for transitional and/or supportive housing, but the project will not increase the floor area, building footprint or height, or number of units.
b. Projects will maintain a minimum 20:1 ratio of dwelling units to on-site supportive services offices, but supportive services cannot exceed 10% of the total floor area. Projects with fewer than 20 units are required to have at least one office.
c. Projects that have a Certificate of Occupancy will not be subject to additional zoning ordinances, and interior alterations, such as adding in-unit cooking facilities, can be made.
d. All project will be reviewed by the Department of Building and Safety to ensure that they meet application requirements, zoning compliance, and performance standards. These standards require the applicant to have an executed contract with a local agency to provide housing onsite with links to services either onsite or offsite.
e. The project cannot reduce the number of onsite parking spaces, and must adhere to requirements related to security night lighting, recycling, and trash facilities.
f. When no longer needed for transitional or supportive housing, the facility may be returned to its original use and any space repurposed for supportive services can be converted back to guest rooms or dwelling units provided it does not result in the facility exceeding its Certificate of Occupancy.
g. Projects cannot result in the alteration of buildings listed or nominated as historic buildings without appropriate consultation with the Office of Historic Resources.
Jessica Ripper, Senior Associate, covers issues at the intersection of housing, health, and human services, and also manages marketing and business development. Jessica can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comments Off on Riverside City Council Adopts Housing First Strategy
The Riverside City Council voted unanimously on March 13 to adopt a Housing First strategy that aims to shift City resources from managing homelessness to ending it by increasing the availability of supportive housing options for people experiencing homelessness. As part of the plan, the City adopted the Housing First model, made recommendations for operationalizing the model, and identified potential sites for development in each ward. The Housing First strategy builds on the region’s success of functionally ending Veteran homelessness in 2016 and lessons learned, including using Housing First, ensuring leadership, and acting with a sense of urgency. The City Council also authorized partnerships with the following entities:
County of Riverside Department of Behavioral Health to be the applicant for No Place Like Home bond funds from the State to fund housing and support services to homeless individuals.
County of Riverside Housing Authority to make 389 County-administered Housing Choice Vouchers available within the City for future Housing First developments.
Comments Off on Omnibus Bill Preserves Key Housing Programs, Strengthens LIHTC
Congress narrowly averted a government shutdown on March 23 when President Trump signed the $1.3 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, which funds the government through September 30, 2018. The bill, which covers a wide range of budget areas, increases defense spending by $66 billion and domestic spending by $52 billion.
FY18 HUD Budget Appropriations
The $42.7 trillion in net discretionary appropriations Congress allocated to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) represents a $3.9 billion increase over FY2017 and a major win for housing advocates who fought White House efforts to cut key housing programs. The final bill provides for the construction of housing, preservation of rental assistance, and economic development, and also funds HUD at higher levels than originally proposed by either the House or Senate.
The following FY18 HUD budget summary integrates data from a variety of sources to highlight key elements of the bill: ,  , , 
The bill provides $33.5 billion for Rental Assistance Programs, which will help meet the housing needs of 3.5 million households. Tenant-based rental assistance will increase 8.5% over FY17 to $22 billion, including $19.6 billion to fund the renewal of Section 8 Housing Choice vouchers. The bill provides $11.5 billion for project-based rental assistance programs.
Public Housing Programs received $7.5 billion. The Operating Fund received $4.55 billion and the Capital Fund received, $2.75 billion, a 42% increase over FY17. The increase will primarily be used to expand the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program from 225,000 to 455,000 units and extend the program through 2024. RAD allows public housing authorities to leverage public and private debt and equity to fund capital improvements. The day before the budget passed, the Government Accountability Office released a study that found that HUD’s evaluation and monitoring procedures did not provide adequate data to assess RAD’s impact on housing authorities’ access to funding, resident safeguards, or the long-term affordability of housing units.
The bill provided $2.5 billion for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, which includes $2.1 billion for Continuum of Care and Rural Housing Stability Assistance, $270 million for Emergency Solutions Grants, $80 million for youth homelessness, $20 million for Family Unification vouchers, and $40 million for new VASH vouchers for homeless veterans. In addition, the bill reauthorizes the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness for two years.
The bill included $907.6 million for the Housing for the Elderly and People with Disabilities, which represents a marked increase over FY2017. Specifically, the bill increases funding for the Housing for the Elderly by 35% to $678 million and funding for Housing for Persons with Disabilities by 57% to $230 million.
The Native American Housing and Community Development program will receive $821 million.
The Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS received a $19 million increase, bringing the total program budget to $375 million.
While the FY18 budget demonstrates bipartisan Congressional support for housing programs, housing advocates are already gearing up to oppose the Administration’s FY19 budget, titled “Efficient, Effective, Accountable – An American Budget,” which aims to eliminate the Community Development Block Grant Program, HOME Investment Partnership Program, Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, and Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program. Eliminating these programs would shift the activities and associated costs to state and local governments.
LIHTC Allocations Increased
In an effort to attract private investment to affordable housing, the omnibus bill increased the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit allocations by 12.5% for four years. The increased cap aims to offset anticipated losses resulting from cutting the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%. Accounting firm Novogradac & Company estimates that the increased allocations would result in an additional 28,400 rental homes. In California, the Tax Credit Allocation Committee will make the additional credits for this year available during the second round of competitive funding, which closes July 2, 2018.
New LIHTC Income Averaging Provision
The bill creates a third set-aside option for rental properties to qualify for LIHTC credits. Income averaging, an option originally introduced in 2016 as part of the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act, aims to promote development, neighborhood revitalization, and affordable housing preservation by making LIHTC properties available to households with a wider range of incomes. Specifically, income averaging would allow households earning up to 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) to qualify for certain LIHTC units provided that 40% of the units are rent-restricted and the average household income for the project does not exceed 60% AMI.
LDC will continue to follow how changes to federal program funding, as well as how the increased LIHTC allocations and income averaging option, impact housing and economic development statewide.
Liz Tracey is an expert on affordable housing and community development finance using tools such as the Low Income Housing Tax Credit and New Markets Tax Credits. For information about community development financing resources, contact Liz Tracey, Senior Principal, LDC at email@example.com.
Comments Off on LA City Council Pledges to Build Housing for the Homeless in Each District
The Los Angeles City Council voted 14-0-1 in March to approve a pledge wherein each council member agrees to build 222 units of supportive housing in his or her district by July 1, 2020. The pledge, although not binding, is a public declaration in support of building supportive housing throughout the city. This is significant in Los Angeles, where a project cannot receive City funding for homeless or low-income housing until it receives a “letter of acknowledgement” from the council member in the corresponding district. This comes over a year after Los Angeles voters approved Measure HHH by 76%, approving the bond measure that will generate $1.2 million in bonds to house the homeless.
Comments Off on National Point-In-Time Count Provides Insight on Homelessness
Volunteers joined community organizations and homelessness experts nationwide in January to conduct the annual Point-in-Time Count (PITC) of people experiencing sheltered and unsheltered homelessness. The PITC, which is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), provides regional Continuums of Care with a snapshot of who is homeless so that communities can better understand and serve them. The PITC also raises public awareness of the challenges affecting people who are homeless.
In the last few years, HUD has worked with the Continuums of Care to improve the accuracy of the PITC, which takes place nationwide during the last 10 days of January. HUD uses the PITC data to inform decisions about how it funds nonprofit providers, and state and local governments, to prevent and end homelessness.
In San Diego, several members of the LDC team joined volunteers from across the County to support the Regional Task Force on the Homeless’ efforts to get an accurate count of the homeless population living in downtown San Diego. This year, the LDC team concentrated its efforts in downtown San Diego, where a high concentration of people live unsheltered. Not only did the experience serve as a reminder that no one sets out to become homeless, it also re-affirmed our resolve as a firm to help and promote the work of communities seeking to expand access to housing and services for residents at all socioeconomic levels.
Jessica Ripper, Senior Associate, covers projects at the intersection of housing, health, and human services, and manages LDC’s marketing and business development. She specializes in partnering with multidisciplinary teams to advance policies and programs to improve the quality of life in our communities, and has extensive experience translating complex social issues into tools that influence the media, policymakers, donors, and community leaders to take action. While at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, she helped to develop Evidence2Success, a framework to guide public investment in evidence-based programs for children and youth.
Comments Off on How Will the 2017 Housing Package Affect 2018?
Of the 130 housing-related bills introduced last year, 15 were approved and signed into law by Gov. Brown. As we look forward to 2018, we’ve examined how some of these bills might be catalysts for change in 2018. In particular, we examined SB35, Senator Wiener’s streamlining bill; SB40, Senator Roth’s Workforce Housing Opportunity Zone (WHOZ) bill; and, AB1397, Assemblymember Low’s bill addressing housing element inventory.
SB35 (Wiener) is a measure that streamlines certain multifamily housing project approvals, at the request of the developer, in jurisdictions that have not met their Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) requirements or have not submitted housing elements for two consecutive years.
Qualifying developments must meet the following requirements: (1) be in an urbanized area (population of 50,000 or more) or an urban cluster (population 2,500 – 50,000); (2) have at least 75 percent of its perimeter adjoining parcels that are already developed as urban uses; and, (3) be zoned residential or mixed-use, with at least 2/3 of the square footage dedicated for residential use. Several exclusions, including excluded land use designations, apply.
SB 540 (Roth) establishes “Workforce Housing Opportunity Zones” (WHOZs). Jurisdictions that opt in will encourage the development of affordable housing near jobs and transit by creating zones where planning, environmental review, and public input is completed through Specific Plans. Developments within Specific Plan areas will benefit in that they will require neither CEQA review nor discretionary review. In 2018, we’ll see jurisdictions begin to develop specific plans in order to take advantage of this program and incentivize the development of affordable housing.
AB 1397 (Low) makes changes to how governments comprise their housing element site inventories. For instance, parcels must have sufficient water, sewer, and utilities in order to be counted. Sites that are now vacant will now need to overcome certain restrictions in order to be included. And, sites must be “available” for residential development, or show that they have “realistic and demonstrated” potential to be developed.
Artemis Spyridonidis covers housing policy issues, including structural solutions to the housing affordability crisis, consolidated plans, housing elements, accessory dwelling unit policy implementation, and regional issues across the state of California.
Comments Off on 10 Trends to Watch in Homeless Services Systems
Homeless Camp in San Diego
California’s efforts to address homelessness drew national attention in 2017 as communities throughout California saw increases in their homeless populations and several cities battled outbreaks of Hepatitis A. However, the high visibility of homelessness helped generate the public and political will to address the growing crisis. To help communities and organizations prepare for 2018 and beyond, we talked to LDC’s homelessness experts Jonathan Hunter and Kris Kuntz about trends to watch in homeless service systems in 2018. Here are some excerpts from our conversation:
Integrating data to drive decision making.
Hunter: In the last several years, people all over the country have been replicating studies showing the high cost of homelessness and the cost shifts and cost savings associated with solving the problem, but people are now realizing the actual data to drive those decisions has been weak because it sits in so many different systems and there are all sorts of barriers to actually integrating that data. So now HUD and local systems are making investments in figuring out how to do data integration across housing, healthcare, policing, corrections, criminal justice, and 911 ambulance transports. But what does data integration mean to the case manager at a federally qualified health clinic or at a homeless shelter or to an outreach worker tied to a totally different system? Does the data actually get to them, and how does it change the way they actually work on the ground?
Kuntz: We’ve historically worked in silos so most people don’t know how to work together well. Very small pilot programs—like Project 25—do it well because the integration was all done through personal relationships with the EMTs, the emergency room doctors, and the Medicaid plan staff. As we move beyond pilots, you’re not going to be able to rely on five people who know each other to break down those silos. For example, 2-1-1 in San Diego has redesigned their technology platform that was an earlier system that integrated data to better coordinate care, but it hasn’t been used to its fullest potential because I don’t think people on the front line necessarily know how to use it well. Whole Person Care discussions in California are forcing those conversations to happen. For example, San Francisco has had an integrated data system for a long time, and I was recently on a panel in Berkeley with San Francisco’s Whole Person Care director who said, “Integrating data does not change practice.”
Breaking down silos and engaging stakeholders in systems-level thinking.
Hunter: You have to understand how all these silo dynamics happen in the first place. When you’re in a hospital emergency room and somebody comes in the door bleeding, you don’t think their housing status matters so you don’t ask. Eventually that person gets sewn up and released. They show back up a few days later, and you still don’t understand that homelessness may be a key piece of why they got injured in the first place, why they didn’t have adequate follow-up care, and why they’re now costing you a lot more money because you’re going to get dinged on your Medicare or Medicaid quality standards for re-admitting them.
The same thing happens when the sheriff arrests somebody and puts them in jail for walking naked in the middle of the street. The arresting officer doesn’t think about incurring significant mental health costs. It’s like the old metaphor that when your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Most of the time you get locked into thinking about the problem from the perspective of your particular system.
That’s shifting now because enough pilot projects have demonstrated that you’re going to save a lot of money, because you’re going to identify people who need supportive housing and are going to dramatically reduce your costs. In another system, you’re not going to save money but you’re going to have way better outcomes. And then you can redirect police officers to focus on doing the work that citizens really want them to do, which they can’t now do because they spend so much time dealing with homeless people with behavioral issues.
Expanding partnerships between housing and healthcare providers.
Hunter: One of the things we’ve been working on is understanding the healthcare sector’s perspective on how to more effectively identify their high-cost, highly vulnerable patients who are probably in many cases homeless. And once they identify those folks, how do they leverage their funding for healthcare and services with housing commitments? In some communities, the healthcare sector has tried to connect with the Continuum of Care (CoC) and even offered to put up funding for services, but gets no response when asked who can do the housing. Figuring out how to better connect healthcare services, care coordination, and case management and the entities dealing with housing and rent subsidies will be critical, regardless of what happens to Obamacare. The expansion of Medicaid, or in California Medi-Cal, will not be impacted by ending the individual mandate, so you’re increasingly going to have for-profit health insurance companies on the hook for very vulnerable people.
Using the coordinated entry system to prioritize people for housing based on need.
Kuntz: By January 23, 2018, CoCs in every community across the country must have baseline policies that tell HUD how they’re going to implement their coordinated entry systems. As we connect the healthcare, criminal justice, and other systems, we have to think about how they can best help get people into housing as the foundation for addressing these other issues. And HUD’s core requirements include some really interesting opportunities for communities to prioritize people for supportive housing including using local health or criminal justice data. Most communities are saying that they’re going to use the vulnerability tool because it’s off the shelf and it’s the easiest thing to do, but some communities will want to think about how they use healthcare, criminal justice, and other data to prioritize people based on need.
Helping housing developers effectively work with coordinated entry systems to meet IRS lease-up requirements.
Hunter: As communities implement coordinated entry, they’re also going to need to think about its impact on housing providers. When San Diego implemented coordinated entry, the very first project they applied it to was a lease-up of a tax credit project. But the lease-up process was so cumbersome and took so long, the developer couldn’t meet the IRS’ required timeline for lease-up and lost a significant amount of money trying to figure this out on the fly. The ability to understand the pressures and dynamics of the housing provider and how coordinated entry is set up to work in that particular community will be essential to moving people into housing quickly.
Kuntz:While each coordinated entry system has to have four critical components—access, assessment, prioritization, and referral—the funding to implement activities related to these critical components may not come from HUD. Communities are going to have to figure out how they do it, and how they pay for it. In San Diego, HUD only funds four housing navigators for the entire county to assist 9,000 people who are homeless. So when we think about these tax-credit projects, we need to think about who will fund the staff time to go find people who are on the streets and at the top of the priority list to put them in available units.
For example, we’ve been working with the City of Riverside to set a policy to develop 400 units of supportive housing in multiple sites over the next couple years. It’s both a development plan about how they build and finance housing, but it’s also about how those housing services systems operate, how they connect to the coordinated entry system, and how they measure performance. As communities in California receive funding to build housing for people who are homeless and chronically homeless over the next couple years, they’re going to need a development plan that ensures the housing units are embedded and connected to service systems that will help people access housing and stabilize once in it.
Leveraging new state funding with local funding sources.
Hunter: In California, unlike most other states, we’ve got significant new money coming into the system to develop housing, and for the development approaches to dealing with chronically homeless and vulnerable populations, in particular people with mental illness. For example, the Building Homes and Jobs Act (SB-2) and No Place Like Home funds will need to be paired with operating subsidies and services funding. In addition, Los Angeles, Alameda, and Santa Clara County have developed local bonds to make significant investments in increasing the supply of housing.
Going back to the whole data sharing and coordinated entry, part of the whole point of doing that work is recognizing that supportive housing especially, is an expensive intervention. So you want to make sure that you use that intervention for the people who most need that intervention or who are having the biggest negative impact across multiple public systems. The targeting of those resources is really critical to ensure that funding is used effectively and ultimately frees up other kinds of public funding for these investments.
Figuring out how homeless systems penetrate expensive rental markets.
Kuntz:We need to build more affordable and supportive housing, but that will take time. So we can either put people in shelters, or we can figure out creative strategies to impact our existing rental markets. For example, I just read an article that said 38% of San Diegans are now living in roommate situations, so maybe 38% of our homeless placements are in roommate situations?
We also need to look at programs like the Los Angeles County Housing for Health program, which provides flexible funding to cover the cost of rental payments and deposits that exceed standard subsidies, or to do other strategies such as master leasing.
Documenting and capturing cost savings to make homelessness services systems sustainable.
Hunter: We’ve made the argument that Housing First and supportive housing strategies significantly reduce public costs in certain sectors. A key assumption of the Whole Person Care pilot programs in California is that, if they’re properly targeting people with the most complex health needs, it’s going to save money over time. But if you implement supportive housing and coordinated entry, how do you document, capture, and reinvest those savings to sustain the system beyond the pilot period?
One of the first supportive housing projects I worked on in the 1990s had 24 units, and we had assumed that they would turn over on a fairly regular basis. By the end of two years, a third of those units were occupied by people who were going to consistently require supports costing $15,000-18,000 a year in order to successfully live independently in the community. That’s a bargain when they had been consuming $150,000-$400,000 a year cycling in and out of hospitalization and jail, but you need to capture that savings to make the intervention sustainable while also going to scale.
Likewise, Los Angeles received sizeable investments from the philanthropic community to design and test run their homeless services system, but now they are trying to figure out how to replace that philanthropic funding with public funding. Philanthropic funding was intended to create a model or test case, not to sustain the system over a long period of time. We need to invest in creating a sustainable system in order to reach a tipping point and reduce the number of people on the streets rather than seeing those numbers increase.
Ensure temporary programs are well operated and generate successful placements into housing.
Kuntz: Lately, we have seen communities across California either start or plan for temporary programs, such as shelters and safe zones intended to help with large unsheltered populations and public health issues. It is going to be critical that these programs are well operated and use a Housing First philosophy with a low-barrier approach from entry to exit. If programs are not low-barrier and welcoming, then they will not serve the folks these programs are intended to reach.
I was recently in Los Angeles at a Measure H City Homeless Plans grantee orientation for work we are doing to assist several cities with their homeless plans, and I heard Phil Ansell, Director of the Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative, say something along these lines: “Shelter can be a seductive thing to do because it can decrease the visibility of street homelessness, but just remember, even in shelter people are still homeless.” It will be interesting to watch this year how effective these temporary programs are at placing people into permanent housing, because it’s one thing to see fewer people on the streets and another to know that people are in their own homes.
We know what works. Now it’s time to work harder than ever before.
Kuntz: Recently I read a blog post by Zach Brown who is the head of the West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness. Super passionate and entertaining. One of things he mentioned was that they don’t need to be part of any more campaigns or get big pats on the back. They know how to end homelessness, and they just need to buckle down and do the hard work that it takes to get people into housing and keep them there. Very simple but so true. Communities across the country know what works. We also know that there are never enough resources to do the work, so we need to work harder than before and be more efficient and creative with the resources we do have. Communities that embrace this philosophy and come together to do the hard work will be the ones that succeed.
Kris Kuntz, Senior Associate, has expertise in systems modeling and change, particularly as applied to the homelessness assistance system. He has performed agency-wide data analysis and 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. To learn more about LDC’s work with homeless assistance systems, contact Kris Kuntz, Senior Associate, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jonathan Hunter, Senior Principal, is a creative leader in collaborative design of innovative solutions to address the needs of our most vulnerable citizens, including developing and funding supportive housing for people who are chronically homeless and have disabilities related to mental illness, substance use, HIV/AIDS and other chronic health conditions. In Los Angeles, his work resulted in the creation of more than 3,000 new units of supportive housing.
Jessica Ripper, Senior Associate, manages marketing and business development and also 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, and tools that influence the media, policymakers, donors, and community leaders to take action. While at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, she helped to develop Evidence2Success, a framework to guide public investment in evidence-based programs for children and youth.
Comments Off on City of Los Angeles Passes Motel Conversion, Permanent Supportive Housing Ordinances
In its last session of 2017, the Los Angeles City Planning Commission passed two ordinances to facilitate the development of transitional and permanent supportive housing. The Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) Ordinance would streamline the production of permanent supportive housing by establishing standard criteria and removing regulatory barriers. To qualify as a permanent supportive housing project, all units would be required to be affordable with half or more of those units designated for persons who are homeless. All projects would be linked to onsite or offsite supportive services, require a 55-year affordability covenant, and ensure one-to-one replacement of any existing affordable units.
If passed by the Los Angeles City Council, the PSH Ordinance would allow new developments to be built at higher density, because units are typically designed for individuals, and would exempt them from mandatory parking minimums. Project would still be required to meet the height and floor area limitations that apply under the existing density bonus program to ensure that the scale of buildings would be similar to a typical affordable housing project.
The second, the Interim Motel Conversion Ordinance, would streamline the approval process for converting existing motels and hotels to supportive and transitional housing for individuals and families experiencing homelessness. This would allow for transitional housing to be developed on a faster timeline than would be required to construct new units.
Both ordinances will be forwarded to relevant City Council Committees for consideration and to the City Attorney for review before they can come to the City Council for a vote.
Winnie Fong, Senior Associate, provides research, analysis, writing, and project management leadership in support of various consulting projects, especially ELP’s role as Executive Director for the Westside Cities Council