California is currently experiencing one of the worst affordable housing financing crises in our state’s history. The Legislature and Supreme Court have dissolved redevelopment agencies at a loss of $1 billion a year in local affordable housing revenue, the state has committed almost all funds from affordable and supportive housing bond measures,and the federal government has slashed HOME funding.
At a time when the supportive housing industry in California is asking, “What do we do now?” two bills introduced this week shed some light at the end of a very dim tunnel.
The first bill, Senate Bill 1220, the Housing Opportunity Trust Fund Act, would create a dedicated source of funding for affordable housing development. Authored by Senators DeSaulnier and Steinberg, the bill would establish a real estate document fee to finance affordable and supportive housing, including operating and services costs.
The second, which Assembly Member Mitchell introduced, Assembly Bill 2266, would require the state access federal funding for “health home services” for homeless frequent emergency room users. The bill takes advantage of a health reform provision offering states 90% reimbursement from the federal government for two years for services like case management and care coordination. In realizing the benefits of these services for people with chronic medical, mental health, even substance abuse conditions, it finances many of the services supportive housing has been providing vulnerable Californians for decades. After two years, when the feds lower their reimbursement to 50%, if done right, an evaluation will have made the case to the state that they could save money.
In essence, the key to success with both ideas is doing it right: rallying enough fervor over the need for the commitment to maintain a supportive housing industry in California. Without the backing of the supportive housing, affordable housing, social services and health care industries along with non-traditional allies, like educators, both bills will be an impossible lift. The real estate industry is likely to oppose the first. The Administration is likely to be weary of the second. But helping inform the Administration and the Legislature on these bills, as well as mobilizing all segments of our industry—our partner health care providers, housing developers, and perhaps most importantly, supportive housing tenants—will improve the chances both bills have in reaching the Governor’s desk and getting his signature.
We’ll be providing more information over the coming weeks and months of how CSH is facilitating your support for these bills.