The City Council has long talked about the need to support affordable housing in Santa Monica and a pair of items at this week’s meeting will earmark significant local money for housing construction and preservation.
The two proposals take different approaches to preserving housing. The first targets the actual housing supply while the second protects vulnerable tenants who could losing housing due to financial stress.
The first item is a recommendation from the city’s Housing Commission to establish a new housing trust fund.
According to the staff report, the program would combine money generated by the voter approved Measure GSH sales tax and funds from the former redevelopment agency. The money would be used to increase affordable housing opportunities with new construction, preserve existing affordable housing with acquisition /rehabilitation, and prevent displacement of low-income households with rental-subsidy programs.
“One key recommendation is targeting the funding to households with incomes at or below 80 percent of area median income,” said the staff report. “Another recommendation is that proposed eligible uses include both new construction and acquisition and rehabilitation developments, noting that new construction has historically achieved better leveraging of public and private financing, thereby minimizing City subsidies and maximizing the reach of City housing trust funds. Finally, the Housing Commission recommends that the eligible uses of the RRHTF allow for rental-subsidy programs, subject to Council approval regarding specific programs.”
Money from the fund would only be available to nonprofit housing organizations.
The second item on the July 25 agenda would create a pilot program to help low income seniors pay their rent.
“The Preserving Our Diversity program is a pilot that aims to support the Council’s strategic goal of maintaining an inclusive and diverse community by providing financial assistance to low-income, long-term residents, aged 62 and older, who live in rent controlled apartments and whose inability to pay rent may result in displacement from Santa Monica,” said the staff report.
The POD program would set aside $200,000 to help seniors pay rent and another $100,000 to pay for administrative costs. To identify the eventual recipients, City Hall sent a survey to about 27,500 rent controlled households. Officials received 814 responses and of those, 433 did not already receive a government benefit (a prerequisite for the Santa Monica program).
Applicants were subjected to additional criteria including a head of household older than 62, Santa Monica residence since at least Jan. 1 2000, occupancy outside a deed-restricted building, occupancy in a building that had received city funding for a construction project, qualification for the Affordable Housing Production Program, in a Federally assisted property and Los Angeles County-assisted or owned affordable housing properties.
The program identified 26 individuals for the pilot program and the proposal calls for providing 12 months of rental assistance while the study is conducted with funding for an additional two months to conclude or transition the program.
“Of the 26 potential ‘pilot cohort’ households, there are 22 one-person households and 4 two-person households,” said the staff report. “The average head of household age is 72 years. Average annual income is $13,763 for a one-person household and $19,281 for a twoperson household. All 26 households experience ‘rent burden’ at more than 30 percent of income paid toward rent, with 22 households ‘severely rent burdened’ at more than 50 percent of income paid toward rent.”
The rental assistance is based on the amount of income left over after housing costs are paid. Staff said Council could reevaluate that approach but doing so would delay the start date (currently estimated as September or October of this year).
Council will meet on Tuesday, July 25 at City Hall, 1685 Main St. Closed session begins at 4:30 p.m. Open session will not begin before 5:30 p.m. Visit smgov.net for more information.