By Dora Leong Gallo, CEO
At ACOF ground-breakings and grand openings, I often talk about how complicated it is to develop permanent supportive housing – affordable homes that include onsite supportive services – due to the complexities of piecing together financing for construction, social services and rental subsidies. Cobbling a patchwork of funding needed to bring these apartment buildings into fruition takes on average five years, if not longer.
This summer, our elected officials in Congress and the Senate have signaled an intent to make it even harder. The HOME program, the only federal housing program focused exclusively on providing states and local governments with resources to build affordable housing, is about to be decimated. Over the past 20 years, the HOME program has helped build and preserve more than 1.1 million affordable homes to hundreds of thousands of low-income families, including formerly homeless individuals and families living with mental illness or other disabilities. At ACOF, we have competed successfully for HOME funds for over a dozen of our buildings, enabling us to leverage millions of other dollars for construction of affordable homes.
In spite of the program’s successful track record, the allocation of HOME funds has steadily decreased in the past decade, from $3 billion to $1.8 billion to $1 billion and last year, $900 million. For next year, Congress has proposed allocating $767 million and the U.S. Senate has gone even further – recommending an allocation of only $66 million nationally! Since funds are distributed by formula, this means we already know that the City of Los Angeles will go from receiving $18 million to $1.3 million next year; Los Angeles County will be reduced from $5.8 million to $427,000; Fullerton from $356,000 to $26,000; and Orange County from $666,000 to $49,000, and so on.
This is shocking! The Senate’s proposal is a 93% cut in the program. Seemingly every week, we are alerted to more and more studies that confirm the lack of affordable homes in communities all over the country, including right here in Southern California. Los Angeles has been designated the most unaffordable rental housing market in the country, where renters on average pay more than 47% of their income for housing. If we truly want to see an end to homelessness, especially for those with disabilities, we must continue to build affordable homes that have long term affordability restrictions, in addition to other actions. This crisis cannot be solved without the commitment and dedication of all three sectors: public, private and nonprofit. While the State of California now has some resources for affordable housing development, the slashing of HOME funds will eliminate the one source of funds that local governments rely on to match or leverage State funding. Without HOME funds, it will be extremely difficult for communities to access State resources to build affordable homes.
What can we do? Contact our federal representatives to let them know that affordable homes are needed now more than ever. Contact your Representative in Congress (call or email) as well as our two California Senators, Barbara Boxer (213-894-5000) and Dianne Feinstein (310-914-7300), and urge them to restore funding to the HOME program. And join the HOME Coalition at https://www.ncsha.org/resource/home-coalition-advocacy-materials to access more information.