Los Angeles Commits to Affordable Housing

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The Board of Supervisors have approved a new fund,
set to total $100 million a year by 2020, to support affordable housing. This is in addition to the $100 million the county has already committed to fighting homelessness.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who authored the motion and was joined by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, said she was trying to take a longer view.

“This money is not just about housing people who are already
homeless,” but about building housing so that most Angelenos can afford a place to live, Kuehl said.

Redevelopment agencies once supplied much of the funding for affordable housing, as they were required to set aside 20 percent of their revenues for that purpose. Their dissolution by the state in 2012 has helped contribute to a supply and demand mismatch.

A family living in the county needs to earn $71,000 per year to afford the average rent for an apartment, but the average renter household earns just over half that, or $39,000, according to Kuehl’s motion.

At least three-quarters of the new county fund will be designated for preserving, building or renovating housing for very low-income or homeless households. The balance is intended to provide rental assistance, rapid re-housing of the homeless, shared housing and move-in assistance programs.

A multi-disciplinary committee will be established and tasked with
returning to the board in about five months with a detailed plan for both funding and spending the dollars. The commitment totals $20 million in 2016-17 and scales up in $20 million increments to reach $100 million annually by 2020-21.

Supervisor Don Knabe raised concerns about setting the budget five years out before identifying the exact source of funds.

“Taking this number out of the sky bothers me,” Knabe said.

Instead, Knabe suggested setting aside up to 20 percent of the county’s excess fund balance each year, rather than setting an absolute dollar amount.  He estimated that his formula could actually provide more dollars for housing in the early years.

Pushing for the $100 million commitment, Ridley-Thomas called it an “audacious and inspirational” goal, telling Knabe it was time “to get moving and get moving now on building affordable housing…we are not running fast enough, keeping up with the crisis.”

Knabe said he absolutely supported affordable housing and wasn’t
advocating for “business as usual,” but that he wanted to ensure that any plan was sustainable.

The board ultimately agreed that the committee would consider Knabe’s formula as one potential way of funding the overall commitment and voted unanimously in favor of the commitment.

The Southern California Association of Non Profit Housing praised the move, calling it “a significant boost to solving the shortage of affordable homes to our most vulnerable, especially low-income families, seniors and veterans,” said Alan Greenlee, executive director of SCANPH.

The association pegged the shortage of affordable homes for those making $18,000 or less per year at more than half a million units.

– from CNS.

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