Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Solving Santa Rosa's Homeless Housing

Tuesday, January 30, 2018
Santa Rosa City Council


I hate to say it, but you should not accept these staff ideas.  I hate to say it because it is clear that safe parking and safe camping are needed in Santa Rosa.  Now urgently.  But I also hate to criticize your staff.  They are caught between trying to figure out what is a "housing first" compliant anything you are considering doing, and what makes sense to the many different communities of interest.

Unfortunately, it's an example of government believing that it can use one vision and perspective to shape all solutions.  It ignores the fact that most good solutions are individually-tailored, and need creativity.

Give the staff the freedom to bring the broader provider community to the table to fashion solutions.  And please decide whether every new affordable housing project has to have homeless rental navigational real estate staff included in the budget.  There's few enough of those wizards around, and even they are only going to waste your money until you start to build housing affordable to our homeless.


Housing in Santa Rosa for Homeless

January 30, 2018

Katie Hatfield
Santa Rosa Housing Department


As per the suggestion of Nancy Manchester, I’d like to learn of your department’s history and current plans to support the development of housing for those residents with very low and extremely low incomes.  I obtained a copy of the 2016-17 Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report (CAPER), the 2017-18 Action Plan (Final Draft), and the  2016-20 Consolidated Plan and Fiscal Year 2017-18 Action Plan from your website.  

As you know, Homeless Action! is working to provide housing and support services to our area’s homeless population, and advocates for their rights in local government meetings and court.  We understand the difficulties experienced by many of our residents to obtain and maintain affordable housing, and recognize your department’s goals to provide housing to the wide range of incomes in Santa Rosa.  We focus our efforts on the lowest income residents whose housing currently consists of our streets, parks, and other public areas.

So we seek to understand your activities in the past and present to serve the levels of income which they possess.

The 2016-20 Consolidated Plan and Fiscal Year 2017-18 Action Plan reports:

"Of the approximately 62,070 households in 2010, 24% were considered very-low income (this figure also includes the extremely-low income category), 17% low-income, 10% moderate income, and 49% above moderate income (income categories are defined in the Needs Assessment)."

The CAPER reports:

"The City made significant progress in achieving its goals in 2016/2017 by providing funding for a second year for development and construction of a seven‐unit complex for extremely‐low and very‐low income veterans; funding for production of 78 units for extremely‐low and very‐low income residents; and additional preservation funding for 48 units for very low‐ and low‐ income households.”

Where is the seven-unit complex?  Is this the Benton’s Veterans Village referred to one page seven? How do homeless veterans apply for these units?
Where are the 78 units being produced?  How far into the process of being produced are they?  What remains to be done to complete them?
Where are the 48 units being preserved?  Is this the Papago Court Apartments referred to on page seven?  What preservation costs were funded?      Are any of the residents of the apartments previously homeless?

The CAPER reports:

"The Council adopted a Housing Action Plan in June, 2016, and, in November 2016 directed staff to issue a Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for $3 million in General Fund money to be used for housing development.  The City received eight applications for various affordable housing projects. The City Council chose to provide funding for four projects, leveraging $3 million to produce 10 homeownership units for low‐ and moderate‐income households, 19 market rate homeownership units, and 27 affordable rental units for extremely low‐ and low‐income households.”

Where are the 27 affordable rental units being built?  How far along are they in the process of development?  What remains to be done to complete them?  How can homeless residents apply for these rental units?

The CAPER Reports:

"The City strives to direct the majority of its available resources to the development of new, affordable rental units. When prioritizing the income levels to be assisted by the new housing units, the City uses the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) as a gauge. Per the City’s 2016 Housing Action Plan, which was based on the RHNA for 2014 – 2022, the total projected housing need is 4,662 units (or 548 average annual need) broken down by income category as follows:  473 extremely low (30% AMI), 474 very low (50% AMI), 581 low (80% AMI), 759 moderate (120% AMI), and 2,375 above moderate. Pursuant to the ABAG goals, as of December, 2016, the City has 43 extremely low‐income, 96 very low‐income, and 203 low‐income housing units under development, for a total of 342 affordable units. The City also has 339 moderate or above‐moderate units under development, for a total of 681 units under development.”

Where are the 43 extremely low income units under development?
Where are the 96 very low income units under development?

The CAPER reports:

"The City was not able to support extremely low‐, low‐ or moderate‐income ownership units because of a lack of funding. While homeowner housing is part of the City’s Consolidated Plan and the Housing Action Plan, the City has no financial resources available and therefore does not have a goal for the number of units completed. The City is always looking for funding opportunities for this goal. In addition, CDBG public services funds were used to help 2,590 homeless residents access services through the Family Support Center (IDIS Activity #534) and the Homeless Services Center (IDIS Activity #535). The Family Support Center, a homeless shelter, provided meals, medical care, housing assistance, workshops, and youth activities to 472 extremely low‐income clients, 18 very low‐income clients, and two low‐income clients (total 492). The Homeless Services Center, a drop‐in day center, served 2,023 extremely low‐ income, 57 very low‐income, 15 low‐income, three median income, and no moderate‐income clients (total 2,098).  Family income is not a factor for determining service eligibility.”

Based on your findings that 99% of those served by the City’s Family Support Center and Homeless Services Center fall into the two lowest income categories, can you explain why only 20 percent of the housing under development by your department is focused on these income levels?

The CAPER reports:

"One of the greatest barriers to preventing and ending homelessness in Santa Rosa is the shortage of affordable housing and the low vacancy rate for rental units throughout Sonoma County. In 2016/2017, the City committed $2,129,287 for the production or preservation of 55 units. The City has prioritized its CDBG and HOME funds as well as local resources for affordable housing purposes.”

Where are the 55 units being preserved with $2,120,287?  Are any of the residents previously homeless?

The CAPER reports:

"As noted previously in this Report, the City approved a Housing Action Plan in June, 2016, that included the following objectives that seek to address the barriers to housing development: 

  • Build 5,000 housing units in the current Housing Element Cycle, through 2023, consistent with General Plan Housing Element Quantified Objectives (ABAG’s RHNA); 
  • Achieve construction of 2,500 affordable housing units that include 30% of the total (approximately 1,500 units) for lower‐income households and 20% of the total (approximately 1,000 units) for moderate income households. The City plans to meet this goal through encouraging inclusionary affordable units within for‐sale market rate housing projects; supporting innovative affordability by design; providing regulatory incentives and financial subsidies for affordable housing projects; and continuing collaboration with affordable housing developers; 
  • Preserve, to the greatest extent possible, the 4,000 existing affordable housing units; 
  • Continue to focus on achieving 1,000 housing units ready for building permit issuance by prioritizing and expediting housing projects currently pending review by planning, engineering, and building; 
  • Facilitate and revitalize the 2,000 housing units available through previously entitled housing projects that have not yet been built by soliciting time extensions and refinements that may be required to implement the respective planning approvals, subdivision maps, and other regulatory requirements; 
  • Identify which pending housing projects and development opportunity sites are subject to federal and state critical habitat and wetland regulations that may render these lands undevelopable and consider amendments to the City’s General Plan to adjust for lost development capacity. 
  • The Housing Action Plan suggests five programs, each with several objectives that offer a variety of creative solutions to address barriers to affordable housing, including, but not limited to: 
    • Seeking inclusionary units in for‐sale housing projects; 
    • Offering regulatory and financial incentives;
    • Amending the local density bonus ordinance;  Modifying the definition of “qualifying units” in the Growth Management Ordinance;
    • Consideration of single room occupancy standards; 
    • Seeking affordable units in pending public land disposition projects; 
    • Identifying publicly owned land parcels suitable for housing production; 
    • Revising policies and procedures for vacation of public right‐of‐way to enhance development potential of adjoining private development sites; 
    • Initiating zoning and other changes intended to maximize housing production potential on opportunity sites;
    • Continuing implementation of permit streamlining for planning entitlements;
    • Expanding affordable housing subsidies and partnerships.”

Why aren’t any of the proposed 5,000 units in the Housing Element Cycle, or 2,500 affordable housing units, being targeted to very low or extremely low income levels?

Can you identify what any of the remaining actions cited above will do to benefit residents in these two lower income categories? 

We’d like to start with these questions, and would appreciate any information you can provide.

Gregory Fearon
2040 Elizabeth Way
Santa Rosa, CA

Sunday, January 28, 2018

City Evaluates Expanded Homeless Housing Alternatives


This Tuesday, the Santa Rosa City Council will review staff reports on both its existing homeless shelter and support services, and several new short-term housing designs.  The reports respond to requests from the Council to know the costs of making existing services "Housing First" compliant, and adopting the same standard for other non-shelter housing alternatives.  It's unlikely that any new alternatives will be approved, and existing services may not fare much better.

The price tag for the standard is between $10,000 and $12,750 a bed annually, with a possible total cost of up to $1.1 million.  The report cautions the Council that its fire-related costs have dangerously drained the City reserves, and states: 

"Additionally, an appropriation of funding will increase the General Fund’s structural deficit annually, which may result in reductions to other General Fund programs, or drawing General Fund reserves further out of compliance with Council policy."

Bringing existing programs into compliance with the Housing First doctrine, as well as expanding the hours of the Homeless Services Center, will also add $852,000 more to their budgets. No detail for the budget figures is included in either report.

Let's be clear.  Homeless Action! did not ask for the City to require its homeless programs to be Housing First compliant.  Beyond lowering barriers to entry to longer, more frustrating shelter stays, we aren't sold that additional costs are proving effective.  We proposed the City support housing alternatives like safe parking and safe encampments because we believe they require much less expensive funding, and have proven much more effective at stabilizing the lives our our residents, and helping them improve their chances of obtaining permanent housing.

Here's the link to the City Council agenda reports (Agenda Items 15.1 and 15.2).  I encourage those concerned about a serious setback in the support of the City for efforts to address homeless issues to read the reports, and email the Council with your comments.

Gregory Fearon