Daily Press Staff Writer
The City Council has approved using $500,000 in federal community development block grants to help remodel about a dozen affordable housing apartments just one block south of Santa Monica’s border.
In exchange for the funding, Venice Community Housing (VCH) will set aside three of the 14 apartments for people on the Santa Monica Homeless Service Registry.
The apartments are part of the City’s multipronged approach to dealing with a booming homeless population.
The number of homeless individuals living in Santa Monica was up 26 percent this year, according to the annual homeless count.
“We know we have people who cross both borders and so one of the things we’re doing is investing regionally to look at this issue of how we can support other communities to do their fair share,” said Barbara Collins, the City’s top housing manager, at a recent press briefing on local homeless outreach efforts.
The 1994 property at 102 Navy Street needs a major overhaul.
The yellow and blue building’s remodel wish list includes a new roof, boiler, doors, cabinets, flooring, fixtures and a paint job, according to a report from the Housing Division.
The funds may also go toward solar panels and an electronic entry system.
The three apartments set aside for Santa Monica homeless residents would last for the remainder of the existing affordability covenant, which ends in 2049. At about $167,000 per unit, City staff sees the exchange as a bargain.
Purchasing and rehabing apartments in Santa Monica ranges between $400,000 to $600,000 per unit, according to the report.
The property is managed by VCH, a non-profit organization that owns and manages 216 units spread across 15 buildings in Venice, Mar Vista and Del Rey, including 78 units of permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless. As of 2015, VCH housed 513 people including 145 children and 165 formerly homeless tenants.
The non-profit provides case management, food, transportation assistance and job readiness programs for tenants.
While the city seeks to open more apartments to people on the street, Collins is also looking at ways to move people out of assistance programs once they get back on their feet.
There are about 239 formerly homeless individuals who currently hold vouchers to live in Santa Monica and access supportive services.
“Those individuals have been housed and stable there for some time now,” Collins said. “The program has existed for over ten years and they have not had a mechanism to go into the community with a voucher and live more independently, which creates blockage in our system to get people who now need that level of service into supportive care.”
Collins said her department is now looking into a so-called ‘graduate’ program to help those living in supportive housing get a Section 8 voucher to move into less service-intensive buildings.
A small pilot program could start as early as next year. The City has worked with a nonprofit to rehab a building specifically for the first wave of graduates to move out of intensive case management and into other affordable housing.
A majority of the funds for the Navy Street apartments, $404,000, will come from this year’s Housing and Economic Development Apartment.