Category Archive: Uncategorized

  1. LDC Welcomes New Berkeley, San Diego Team Members

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    LDC is pleased to announce the addition of five new team members to its Berkeley and San Diego offices.

    Ophelia B. Basgal, Senior Principal (part-time)

    Ophelia Basgal is joining our firm as a part-time Senior Principal working on a variety of housing strategy, policy, organizational positioning, and community engagement projects. For the past year and a half, Ophelia has worked alongside us as a subcontractor on a Southern California public housing transformation plan, and as a member of the CASA Technical Committee in the Bay Area.  We are pleased to formalize our relationship with her as a part-time member of our team.  Ophelia will affiliate with our Berkeley office and can be reached at Ophelia@lesardevelopment.com.

    Ophelia brings nearly four decades of experience with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs, including 27 years as the Executive Director of the Alameda County Housing Authority and five years as the Regional Administrator for HUD in Region IX with regular contact with the HUD Public and Indian Housing staff and Region IX Public Housing Authorities (PHAs). As HUD Region IX Administrator, Ms. Basgal led a team of approximately 650 employees in five field offices (Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada and the Territory of Guam, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa) and was responsible for effective delivery of HUD’s programs and services to customers within the Region. Ophelia also previously served as Executive Director the Alameda County and Dublin, California Housing Authorities from 1978 to 2005. In that role, she oversaw an administrative budget of $8.2 million and total operating budget of $82 million. Ophelia has a master’s degree in Social Welfare Administration from the University of California and a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Arizona State University.

    Melina Whitehead, Senior Principal (part-time)

    Melina WhiteheadMelina Whitehead joins our firm as a part-time Senior Principal and will focus on a portfolio of housing authority and HUD-related work including compliance, disaster recovery, finance, governance, organizational development, and policy. Melina brings nearly three decades of experience with HUD program compliance, most recently as the Division Director of the San Francisco Office of Public Housing. Melina will affiliate with our Berkeley office and can be reached at Melina@lesardevelopment.com.

    While serving as the Division Director of the San Francisco Office of Public Housing, Melina was responsible for providing technical assistance and monitoring programs administered by 56 Northern California PHAs who receive annual federal funding in excess of $1.35 billion and provide 187,000 units of affordable housing through the Low Rent Public Housing and Housing Choice Voucher Programs. She trained and led technical staff in comprehensive reviews of housing authorities, and upon completion issued reports containing recommendations and strategies to address concerns in areas of governance, finance, and program compliance. Melina assisted with the implementation of the Rental Assistance Demonstration Program (RAD) since its inception as a Team Leader and a Subject Matter Expert and in that capacity she reviewed RAD applications submitted by PHAs and owners from across the country to determine project acceptability and guide the RAD conversion. Melina helped develop guidance and processing procedures for PHAs and HUD staff nationwide and trained PHAs and staff.

    She served on the Sustainable Communities Task Force, which was comprised of representatives from EPA, FTA, ABAG, MTC, CalTrans, and HCD, and produced a report on federal barriers to local housing and transportation coordination. For nine years, Melina was the team lead/underwriter for the HUD San Francisco Office of Multifamily Housing Development with a portfolio that included 120+ multifamily FHA-insured or subsidized housing developments that ranged from supportive housing to market rate and affordable apartments, nursing homes, and Single Room Occupancy projects.

    Prior to joining the San Francisco Office of Public Housing, Melina was a Community Builder with the Regional HUD office and prior to that she was a Supervisory Underwriter with the San Francisco HUD/FHA Multifamily Office. In addition to her duties as an underwriter for Section 202/811, 221(d)(3), 221(d)(4), 236, 223(m), and 223(f) FHA programs, Melina also served as the Coordinator for the Mark-to-Market program and was responsible for the restructuring and refinance of FHA multifamily projects in California, Nevada, Arizona, and Hawaii. Melina started her career with HUD as an Economist.

    Diana Elrod, Principal (part-time)

    Diana ElrodDiana Elrod, Principal, is now on board at LDC and brings her expertise in community development and planning to LDC’s Berkeley office; she will work on a part-time basis.  Diana can be reached at Diana@lesardevelopment.com.  Diana will work four days a week.

    She has extensive experience serving as a strategic advisor to jurisdictions on Consolidated Plans, Housing Elements, and Inclusionary Housing, and has authored needs assessments, policy analyses, and legislative advocacy platforms on topics including inclusionary zoning, density bonuses, senior housing zoning overlays, and in lieu fees.  She has also ushered affordable housing projects from conception to construction.  Prior to launching her own consulting practice, Diana served as the Policy and Planning Administrator for the City of San Jose Department of Housing, Special Assistant to the Chair for New York City Department of City Planning, and Planner for the New York City Public Development Corporation. She holds a master’s degree in Urban Planning and Preservation from Columbia University, and earned her bachelor’s degree in American Architectural History from Oberlin College.

    Erica Snyder, Senior Associate (full-time)

    Erica Snyder, Senior Associate, brings her expertise in strategic planning, systems change, and housing and homelessness policy to the San Diego office. She starts on March 19th and can be reached at Erica@lesardevelopment.com.

    She previously served as the Director of Homeless Housing Innovations at the San Diego Housing Commission where she guided and oversaw the development of Housing First homeless assistance programs, including the creation of the Housing Our Heroes Initiative, which provided landlords with financial incentives and benefits for renting to 1,000 Veterans experiencing homelessness. Erica’s broad experience spans both the public and nonprofit sectors, having also worked with the U.S. Department of Justice, Duke University’s National Center for Child Traumatic Stress, United Way of San Diego County, and other nonprofits. She has often been involved at the inception of new ventures and instrumental in creating infrastructure and policy for programs impacting complex social issues, such as homelessness, human trafficking, and child trauma. Ms. Snyder holds a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, focusing on community, management, and policy. Erica can be reached at Erica@lesardevelopment.com.

    Brian Gruters, Associate (full-time)

    Brian GrutersBrian Gruters, Associate, also recently joined the LDC team with a focus 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 New York City, where his work centered on permanent supportive housing management, development of limited‐equity housing, and community organizing. 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. Brian can be reached at Brian@lesardevelopment.com.

  2. Factory OS Tour

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    On January 30, LDC staff toured Factory OS, a new company specializing in the off-site construction of pre-fab modular homes. Co-owned by well-known developer Rick Holliday of Holliday Development, and Larry Pace of Cannon Contractors, the company aims to speed up the production and reduce the costs of building both market rate and affordable multifamily housing. A recent San Francisco Chronicle article reported that Factory OS is already slated to produce more than 1,700 total units for five projects in the cities of Oakland, Emeryville, Mountain View, and Union City. The Mountain View project developed for Google owner Alphabet Inc. will produce an estimated 300 modular apartment units for Google employees.

    Jennifer LeSar, CEO of LDC, Rick Holiday, owner of Factory OS, Ophelia Basgal, Senior Principal at LDC, and Liz Tracey Senior Principal at LDC, tour a 300 square foot unit intended for rapid rehousing. Units can be delivered finished, with appliances installed.

    Factory OS workers in Phase I of building.

    Factory OS prepped to build affordable housing units

    Jennifer LeSar with Sarah Kruer Jager of Monarch Group at Factory OS.

  3. The Future of Costa-Hawkins Repeal

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    For Rent SignThose of us deeply committed to a healthy housing market for all understand all too well how a constrained housing supply has resulted in increased rent burdens on the majority of tenants in California. Here at LDC, we are engaged in working on a variety of strategies to address both the housing crisis and address displacement of California’s low and moderate-income renters.

    Along with many housing advocate colleagues in the state, we have been following the recent proposals and discussion of one of the most controversial housing market interventions that exists – rent control.

    On January 11, efforts in the California legislature to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act failed to move forward when the California Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee voted on AB 1506 (Bloom), resulting in a 3-3 tie with one abstention. The bill would have allowed local governments to strengthen rent control ordinances.

    Enacted in 1995, Costa-Hawkins, prohibits cities and counties from strengthening existing rent control ordinances, and prohibits the application of rent control ordinances to duplexes, single family homes, and housing of any type built after 1995.

    Despite the failure of AB 1506 at the Assembly committee level, Costa-Hawkins could still be repealed if California voters pass a November 2018 ballot measure proposed by the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment and championed by nonprofit community organizing groups and tenant right’s advocates. If Costa-Hawkins is repealed, cities and counties would be allowed to draft rent control ordinances free from the restraints of the 1995 law.

    If your community is interested in strategies to mitigate displacement and rising rent pressures, please reach out to us at jennifer@lesardevelopment.com or artemis@lesardevelopment.com.

    Artemis Spyridonidis covers housing policy issues, including structural solutions to the housing affordability crisis, consolidated plans, housing elements, accessory dwelling unit policy implementation, and regional issues across the state of California. To learn more about LDC’s policy services, contact Artemis Spyridonidis, Senior Associate, at artemis@lesardevelopment.com.

  4. 10 Trends to Watch in Homeless Services Systems

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    Image of homeless camp near the I-5 freeway in San Diego

    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:

    1. 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.”

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

    1. 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 kris@lesardevelopment.com.

     

     

    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.

     

     

  5. New Perspectives on State and Local Policy

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    Image of Sen. Toni Atkins speaking at the Housing Policy Leadership Academy

    Senator Toni Atkins speaking at Housing Policy Leadership Academy

    When we launched the Housing Policy Leadership Academy this fall, we anticipated that participants would gain new perspectives on how urban planning, development, and design and construction are influenced by federal, state, and local policy. What we did not anticipate was the degree to which these emerging leaders in housing policy valued the opportunity to exchange ideas with state and local leaders and to learn from each other’s perspectives on issues ranging from gentrification and displacement to affordable housing finance.

    Advocating for New Funding Sources

    One of the Academy’s highlights was a crash course on how state policy gets shaped led by Sen. Toni Atkins, who shared her experience shepherding The Building Homes and Jobs Act (SB-2) through the Legislature to ensure that California has a reliable source of funding for affordable housing.

    “It was helpful to understand what’s important to policymakers and why,” said Ted Miyahara, Director of Housing Finance at the San Diego Housing Commission. “As someone involved in affordable housing finance, I also appreciated the discussion about the complexity of getting affordable housing built, and the need for more people to get behind legislation to create financing sources for affordable housing.”

    Miyahara also emphasized the importance of giving more people the tools and talking points to have constructive conversations when they’re trying to persuade policymakers or the community about a new policy or project.

    Building Equity into the Housing Market

    Georgette Gomez talking about equity at the Housing Policy Leadership Academy

    In a session on equity, San Diego Councilmember Georgette Gomez (District 9) talked about how her experience growing up made her question how land use and development decisions create disparities between communities.

    She also talked about unhealthy living conditions, discrimination against people with Section 8 vouchers, the benefits of transit-oriented development, and the need to be more proactive about the preservation of affordable housing, and the benefits of transit-oriented development.

    “To lose the limited affordable housing we have, it’s going to create a bigger problem,” said Gomez. “We definitely need to have a better handle on the type of affordable housing we have, and we should strive to preserve it. Or when we talk about removing some affordable housing, we need to have a follow-up plan to replace it.”

    Fall 2018 Housing Policy Leadership Academy

    Are you interested in learning more about housing policy? Add your name to our interest list, and we’ll let you know when the application period opens for the fall 2018 course, which is anticipated to run for eight weeks in September, October, and November.

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

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

  6. Celebrating the 1/3 Point Progress with CASA – The Committee to House the Bay Area

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    Sen. Scott Wiener Speaking to CASA

    CASA is a year-and-a-half long convening of diverse, multi-disciplinary Bay Area leaders to create a regional housing implementation plan that commenced in June 2017 and will wrap up in October 2018.  Led by representatives from local and regional government, business, the social equity community, labor, private and affordable housing development, philanthropy, and finance, CASA is one-third of the way toward developing the plan, which aims to dramatically change the housing production paradigm and enable the Bay Area to meet its housing needs and protect its most vulnerable residents.

    As the CASA facilitator, I have had the opportunity to work closely with the Co-Chairs and Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) leadership to guide the process for both its Steering Committee and Technical Committee. By December, the group had held five Technical Committee meetings and one Steering Committee meeting, and had completed a significant portion of its preliminary work. You can download the meeting agendas to learn more about the group’s work, but here’s a quick recap of where we have been and a forecast on where we are going:

    • June: 50 members of the Steering and Technical Committees shared the impacts of the housing crisis, key obstacles faced by their organizations and constituents, and actions they were taking in response to the lack of affordability and availability of housing.
    • July: Key themes from the June meeting and a literature review on the Bay Area crisis and relevant statewide, national, and international thought leadership were shared.  A work plan strategy map was presented.
    • September: The three Co-Chairs presented preliminary ideas corresponding to our Actions Strategy focusing on housing production, the preservation of affordable housing stock, and the protection of vulnerable residents and communities. We also debuted our governance frameworks and action ideas templates, and received an overview of MTC’s funding sources (new vocabulary for housing and social equity folks!). Using our Gradients of Agreement decision-making system, we scored the protection and production action ideas.
    • October: We scored the last of the three prongs of our work – the preservation ideas, and we reviewed the scoring from the September meeting to determine where we had general agreement and/or lack of consensus.  We also had detailed presentations on distinguishing between gentrification and displacement, understanding the underlying pressures and strategies to strengthen the resilience of communities, and understanding the financial realities of building housing.
    • December: We held our first workshop to begin building the key elements of our regional housing framework, and to gather feedback on our community engagement strategy.  Detailed presentations identified the amount of publicly owned land that could be available for transit-proximate housing development, and we received an update on MTC’s work on its housing actions from its Plan Bay Area 2040.

    2018 will bring continued focus on articulating our framework to ensure that the plan is equitable, inclusive, and impactful, and that it puts the Bay Area on a trajectory to meet the needs of its current and future residents. Please follow our progress as we build out and vet our action ideas through our Technical and Steering Committees, community meetings, and CASA members’ networks. If you are interested in adapting and building upon this process for your region or local community, please reach out to Jennifer at jennifer@lesardevelopment.com.

    With more than 30 years of experience in the real estate development and investment banking industries, Jennifer LeSar brings a diverse background to her work in community development and urban revitalization. Her technical expertise spans from policy and program development to the origination and underwriting of complex investments in equity funds, multi-family portfolios, and historic and low-income tax credit properties utilizing federal and state financing programs.

    For more information about innovative approaches to address our housing crisis, contact Jennifer LeSar, President and CEO, at Jennifer@lesardevelopment.com.

  7. Graduating the First Cohort of Our Housing Policy Leadership Academy

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    This year, we launched our Housing Policy Leadership Academy, which attracted a diverse group of speakers and 40 emerging leaders to examine the causes and consequences of the housing crisis and explore viable policy solutions. We’re grateful for the positive feedback we received and are currently exploring ways we can bring this program to communities statewide. We are currently maintaining an interest list for our September 2018 course, and look forward to developing a cadre of leaders with the knowledge to promote sound housing policy in every county statewide.

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    HUD Secretary Ben Carson at the National Alliance to End Homelessness

    HUD Secretary Ben Carson at the National Alliance to End Homelessness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  10. State Lawmakers Take Action on Homelessness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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