By Toni G. Atkins | Notes from Toni
Sept. 29, 2017 was a momentous day for me professionally and personally – it was the day Governor Jerry Brown signed my bill, Senate Bill 2, the Building Homes and Jobs Act, creating a permanent, reliable source of funding for affordable housing. With the help of countless others, I had worked on that policy priority for seven years, and we finally got it across the finish line. It was exciting and extremely gratifying.
I couldn’t wait for the revenue from SB 2 to begin flowing to local communities across the state to reduce homelessness and provide housing opportunities for struggling individuals and families.
But I knew that it takes time for a new law to result in real dollars. I knew that it would take time for the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) to create the rules and procedures governing how the funding would be allocated to local communities to make sure that it is well-spent.
I am pleased to announce that HCD has notified local governments that the first round of funding from SB 2 is now available. It’s important to note that this is just the beginning. Half of the revenue from SB 2 during the first year goes directly to programs aimed at reducing homelessness — this first round of funding comes from that stream.
San Diego will receive more than $2.5 million from this first round to help alleviate homelessness.
Also on the way is $32.9 million from the Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP), which was created as part of this year’s state budget. The city of San Diego will get $14.1 million, while the San Diego Regional Task Force on the Homeless will get $18.8 million to disperse to programs across the county.
The state will send out a notification of HEAP funding availability on Sept. 5. The money may be used for homelessness prevention, criminal-justice diversion for homeless individuals with mental-health needs, emergency aid, homeless outreach, housing navigation services, rental assistance and landlord incentives to increase housing opportunities available to formerly homeless individuals.
In all, the state is allocating roughly $1.2 billion in 2018 to address the state’s homelessness and housing-affordability crisis — including $500 million for HEAP, an estimated $250 million from SB 2 and $455 million from the state’s Cap and Trade program to fund affordable housing located near public transit.
These resources will help fund real programs and real affordable housing developments at the local level and have real, positive impacts in the lives of our neighbors who are struggling with unstable housing or no housing at all. No one should have to live in shelters, or along our rivers, or on our streets. Everyone deserves a place to live, regardless of their income and regardless of barriers such as mental illness or substance abuse.
Not only will this new state funding directly help individuals and families — it will also have significant economic, environmental and public-health benefits.
Housing and homelessness have been my top priorities since I began serving on the San Diego City Council 18 years ago. These challenges are not new. I am proud to be in a position to continue working toward solutions as the leader of the state Senate. This year’s focus on funding is a big step, but there is a lot of work ahead, and my colleagues and I will continue to pursue an end to the crisis.
—Toni G. Atkins represents the 39th District in the California Senate. Follow her on Twitter @SenToniAtkins.