music in the park san jose

.New Components in Housing Equation

Local efforts may join regional, federal come November

music in the park san jose

When Bishop George Matthews of Oakland’s Genesis Worship Center talks about the 17 new units of transitional housing on church property, and the rehabbed house across the street now providing room for five more formerly incarcerated people, “partnership” is the word he emphasizes.

By 2016, when Alameda County voters passed Measure A-1, authorizing $580 million to acquire and/or improve property for local housing, Matthews and his congregation had been working on new uses of its fellowship hall for years. Measure A-1 funds amounted to only a small, but important, portion of the $4 million required to complete the two projects. 

It was a key part of a partnership, he said, that included 20 years of tithes and offerings from a mostly low-income church membership, mortgaging his own home, a $3.6 million loan from the UCC Cornerstone Fund, additional support from nonprofit New Way Homes, and the Alameda County Probation Department. Today, both facilities are filled to capacity with formerly incarcerated men participating in a three-phase program, during which they receive training, counseling—and ultimately, guaranteed permanent housing.

This type of partnership is one of the models for the future, Matthews said.

New Way Homes, for example, is now part of another approved Oakland church project, the “Homes of Hope” 28-unit affordable housing development on property owned by the Center of Hope Community Church, according to development manager Jason Todd. Yet another is nine units on property owned by Oakland’s Lily of the Valley Christian Center.

“Many churches have experienced declining membership,” said Todd, and are seeking ways to utilize underused spaces. These partnerships don’t put the churches’ ownership at risk, he said. Instead, a ground lease on the property serves as collateral for construction loans. “This model hasn’t been seen before,” he said. New Way currently has 350 units in development statewide, and is looking to expand nationwide.

At a Feb. 23 press conference, Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley explained that a “prequel” to Measure A-1 was the county-created “Community Benefit Organization,” which partnered faith-based groups with the county. “It laid the groundwork for A-1,” he said.

Measure A-1 funds, however, were not all allocated to faith-based development projects. Miley, who vigorously supported the measure’s passage, noted, “We leveraged every additional dollar and built 4,000 housing units [county-wide].” To date, according to press materials, “there are 262 new homeowners and over 4,100 affordable rental housing units as a result of Measure A-1 bond funding.” In Oakland, “Measure A-1 funds supported the construction of 16 rental projects to develop 874 affordable housing units.”

Besides Oakland, building projects have been funded in Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Fremont, Hayward, Livermore, Newark, Pleasanton, San Leandro, Union City and unincorporated areas of Alameda County, according to statistics provided by Miley’s office.

Measure A-1 funding has now been fully allocated, although not all funds have been spent, as many projects are still being completed. The breakdown, as provided by Miley’s office, is:

    * Rental Development: $425M 

    • Homeowner Developer: $25M 

    • Home Preservation Fund: $45M 

    • Downpayment Assistance: $50M 

    • Innovation Fund: $10M 

    • Acquisition and Opportunity Fund: $25M 

In particular, the Rental Housing Development Fund’s purpose was “to create and preserve affordable rental housing for extremely low and very low households and vulnerable populations throughout Alameda County.”

All of this could be majorly augmented if a huge bond issue is placed on nine counties’ ballots in November—and passed. The Bay Area Housing Finance Authority, the first regional housing authority in the state, is proposing a $10-20 billion affordable housing bond measure. BAHFA was created by the California Legislature in 2019 “after determining that the Bay Area’s housing challenges were too great for any one city or county to meaningfully address,” its website states. 

According to the same website, “a $20 billion bond could create 80,000 new affordable homes—over two times more than what would be possible without a bond.” Said Miley, “Through the BAHFA bond, we will have enough revenues to close the funding gap [that sometimes prevents housing proposals from moving forward].”

Several steps are necessary before the measure could come up for a vote, Miley said. Discussions among representatives from Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma counties will continue for the next couple of months. In May, Miley said, BAHFA is scheduled to hold a public hearing, and in June the counties will be asked to authorize the measure’s placement on the ballot. In July, he said, a public information campaign will commence.

The regional approach to the interconnected issues of affordable housing and homelessness would be much more effective than expecting individual cities and counties to solve the crises, Miley said. Pushing unhoused people out of one city simply causes them to transit to another, and the lack of affordable rentals causes depopulation of the urban core, as people move further and further out. This in turn leads to more traffic congestion and air pollution.

BAHFA’s model is an already successful effort in New York State. It uses what materials refer to as the “3Ps Framework: Protection for current residents to avoid displacement; Preservation of existing housing affordable to lower- and middle-income residents; and Production of new housing at all income levels, especially affordable housing.”

Miley said that some funding would target tax-defaulted properties and areas that are in need of hazardous waste clean-up before development could take place. Another possibility: leasing unused school properties for housing. “There are 600 homeless kids [attending schools in the Oakland Unified School District],” he said. “This could help them.”

BAHFA is also already piloting several programs, including Doorway, an online affordable housing search and application portal serving the nine counties; a rental assistance subsidy program in Napa to prevent extremely low-income seniors and people with disabilities from becoming homeless; one-time state grants for affordable housing preservation and production projects; and a Bay Area affordable housing pipeline to provide a comprehensive inventory of affordable housing projects in pre-development in the region.

Possible federal help could add yet another component to an evolving solution. In President Biden’s State of the Union speech, he referenced providing a $10,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers and people who sell their starter homes.

According to a White House briefing statement, “The [proposed] budget includes that proposal as part of a historic investment of more than $258 billion that would build or preserve over 2 million housing units, support millions of first-time homebuyers, guarantee affordable housing for hundreds of thousands of extremely low-income veterans and youth aging out of foster care, and advance efforts to end homelessness.”

The National Low-Income Housing Coalition released a statement applauding these potential efforts. “His proposed actions to prevent rent gouging are historic and a major win for renters nationwide who have been struggling with sky-high rents and who are at increased risk of housing instability,” said NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel in a release.

“Anything the federal government can do is added value,” Miley said. 

For more information about the Bay Area Housing Finance Authority and the proposed nine-county bond measure, visit 

mtc.ca.gov/about-mtc/authorities/bay-area-housing-finance-authority-bahfa

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