Santa Monica is still struggling to refine a plan that would have City Hall subsidize rents for some tenants in rent-controlled buildings.
A draft of the proposal will be presented at the Oct. 20 meeting of the Housing Commission and discussion will focus on the very foundation of the program. How much money should be given to how many residents?
City Hall has been developing guidelines for some kind of rent subsidy since 2015 and according to the draft available online, the Preserving Our Diversity (POD) program is designed to maintain economic diversity by providing rental assistance to rent-controlled tenants who could be forced to leave Santa Monica due to an inability to pay their rent. The report said the program would have a secondary benefit of collecting data about the problems of rent-burdened tenants.
The budget for the pilot program is $200,000 for rent assistance with an additional $100,000 for administration that could include hiring a consultant to help manager, collect and analyze data to determine who should receive assistance as well as conduct eligibility screening.
To be eligible for the pilot program, renters must be extremely low-income (earn less than 30 percent of area median income), severely rent-burdened (pay more than 50 percent of gross household income toward rent), and have lived in a Rent Control apartment for at least 10 years.
Anyone currently receiving aid is not eligible including renters living in deed-restricted affordable housing, anyone already part of (or terminated from) a Housing Authority subsidy program and renters with violent criminal records.
As described in the staff report, “The rental subsidy amount for the POD Program participants shall be the difference between the Rent Control Maximum Allowable Rent plus any pass- through fees, and 40 percent of the Gross Household Income. The total rent paid (tenant portion + rental subsidy) shall not exceed the Rent Control Maximum Allowable Rent plus allowable pass-through fees.”
However, the report stipulates demand far exceeds the potential supply of money and the Commission will be presented with several options to maximize the number of people potential receiving aid.
According to the staff report, 6,325 Santa Monica are spending more than half their income on rent. While Federal, State and County agencies have traditionally provided monetary aid for housing, the report said Santa Monica has a history of innovating to support its low-income residents.
The options include serving an estimated 27 households by reducing the their rent to 30 percent of household, aid 33 households by reducing rent to 40 percent of household income, serving 43 households by reducing rent to 50 percent of household income or providing a fixed amount of aid based on the income levels.
The pilot program was developed based on survey results from several hundred low-income households.
According to the survey, 330 of the 433 valid responses, or 76 percent, were rent burdened and 155 (36 percent) were severely burdened. 79 households were considered extremely low income with an average age of 68. The average rent was $954 a month for an income of $1,444.
While the pilot program’s budget of $200,000 will only aid a small portion of the total, the total cost to provide aid would be more than double that amount on an annual basis.
The staff report said it would take $579,228 per year to fund the 79 households identified in the survey as making less than 30 percent of the median income
In addition to determining the level of service provided by POD, staff are asking the commission to revise the guidelines in advance of a hearing by City Council.
The Housing Commission will meet on Thursday, Oct. 20 at 4:30 p.m. in the Santa Monica Main Library, 601 Santa Monica Blvd. To view information about the Housing Commission, or other boards, visit http://www.smgov.net/departments/clerk/boards.
BY MATTHEW HALL