Community Health

Housing and Homelessness

Funding Continums of Care Throughout California

The State legislature is continuing to make housing a priority throughout the state as recently evidenced by the 2018 Housing Package, which increases the funding originally requested in the budget, and also takes strides to make the process of solving for the homelessness crisis more efficient and streamlined.

The Housing and Homelessness package, expected to be adopted June 15, includes $500 million in emergency block grants, which is twice the amount that was originally expected after negotiations and revisions in May 2018. The General Fund block grants are for emergency aid to local governments responding to the homelessness crisis and will include $250 million for Continuums of Care (CoCs), $150 million in direct allocations to cities or counties with populations over 330 thousand, and $100 million allocated based on an area’s homeless population, also toward CoCs.

The choice to fund homelessness programs though CoCs will ensure funding is funneled toward local strategic efforts that comprehensively attempt to work to end the homeless crises specific to those communities. CoCs develop long-term strategic plans and manage year-round efforts to address the needs of the homeless in their specific geographic areas. Recognizing there are a wide variety of causes for homelessness, and thus a wide variety of solutions for homelessness, these continuums provide tailored solutions for their communities. Because of the way CoCs are designed, this emergency funding will be used efficiently as possible at the local level.

In addition to one-time grants for CoCs, the package also moves the Homeless Coordinating Council to the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency, and includes $500 thousand to fund the newly housed council, dedicating one third of its staff to homeless youth. It also provides $370 thousand from the Housing for Veterans Fund for two positions to execute loan closings and mitigate litigation costs related to the Veterans Housing and Homelessness Prevention Program.

The package continues to prioritize ensuring the sale of Department of Transportation (Caltrans) surplus property is maintained as affordable housing. This proposal supports Caltrans administration of the "Roberti Act" Affordable Sales Program on the State Route 710 corridor. Finally, the package provides $50 thousand for Gateway Cities Council of Governments for a housing strategy assessment.

Could Now Be the Time for a CRIA?

 Copyright American Planning Association Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Copyright American Planning Association
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

AB 2492 extends Community Revitalization and Investment Areas to wealthier regions of the state, without much change to financial benefits of these tax increment financing (TIF) districts.

Last month, RSG discussed the limited financial benefits of Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts, one of several newer tax increment financing tools that provide limited benefits similar to redevelopment financing. Community Revitalization and Investment Authorities (CRIAs) are similarly structured and provide these tools AND opportunities for other community development tools. These characteristics have attracted some of our clients to evaluate their benefit. As it turned out, most of California could not benefit from a CRIA given the narrow socioeconomic requirements. 

However, just this week, the Governor signed Assembly Bill (AB) 2492 (Alejo) into law that makes changes to CRIAs, so we took a hard look at these changes and how they affect cities looking for help on community development projects. As it turns out, AB 2492 primarily expands the net on eligibility for CRIAs, but fails to provide much needed new capital to communities.

Here are the main changes:

  • More communities qualify – a greater number of lower income neighborhoods qualify because AB 2492 allows wealthier areas of the state to identify CRIAs in areas that have a median income less than 80 percent of the city or county median income, not just the state;
  • More flexibility - Added flexibility in measuring what parts of communities qualify by allowing the use of census tracts and/or block groups;
  • Any California Environmental Protection Agency-designated “disadvantaged community” automatically qualifies for CRIA - this certainly helps some very low and low income neighborhoods that would otherwise not qualify under the old law; and
  • Some added financial benefit – in addition to tax increment generated by the CRIA, special districts may now have the authority to allocate funds from certain tax and assessment revenues to the CRIA.  Cities and counties already had this ability.

We would love to see more done to make these districts more attractive by:

  • increasing the amount of tax increment revenues,
  • lowering the costs for startup, and
  • providing some other efficiencies like those RSG outlined in last month’s article for EIFDs. 

It’s important to note -  qualifying alone does not mean this tool is right for you.  It’s important to look at the financial feasibility carefully before jumping ahead.

Written by Jim Simon, a Principal at RSG

Controlling Mosquito Populations

Your property taxes include an assessment to fund pest and vector control services in the form of an abatement district, which is meant to fund the prevention, mitigation, and control of some type of pest or hazard. Mosquito abatement districts are public agencies that serve communities through controlling and preventing mosquitoes. To finance mosquito control and surveillance efforts, mosquito abatement districts charge an annual service fee to all non-exempt land parcels in a service area, billed on the property tax bill. 

RSG performs property tax calculations for counties and abatement districts. We provide them with projections that inform budgets and determine the level of service they can provide.

Mosquito abatement districts were created in response to public health concerns about the mosquito as a carrier of disease. Today, mosquito-borne illnesses include malaria, dengue fever, West Nile Virus, chikungunya, multiple forms of encephalitis, and Zika fever, among others.

In addition to the protection from mosquito abatement districts, people can help to control mosquito populations. Residents can reduce their risk of mosquito-borne disease by eliminating breeding sources around their homes and taking other precautions. Residents can reduce breeding by eliminating standing water around their yard. Property owners should maintain ponds and pools with adequate filtration and chemical additives.

Written by Evanne Holloway, an Analyst at RSG

Seeking Greater Housing Affordability

 Copyright American Planning Association Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Copyright American Planning Association
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

A recent Urban Land Institute Terwilliger Center for Housing article emphasizes the scope of the US housing shortage. According to the article, new residential construction is below its historic average and even Great Recession-era levels.

Currently, much new apartment development aims for the high end of the market to make the financials work for developers. Rising land and labor costs, local regulations and NIMBYism make it even more difficult and expensive to build new housing. 

Many cities are spending precious funds to subsidize rent-restricted units, proving that we as a society care about housing affordability. Maybe we should consider the maxim of “first, do no harm.” How can cities reduce barriers to encourage more housing development, both market-rate and rent-restricted? How can we get community stakeholders to recognize that some development and change is needed to accommodate new residents and maintain affordability for renters? 

We passionately discuss topics like this affecting cities and towns at the RSG office, in search of solutions. Contact us today if you’re looking for such solutions.

Written by Dima Galkin, an Associate at RSG

Are CRIAs or EIFDs Right for You?

Community Revitalization and Investment Authorities (CRIA) and Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts (EIFD) are receiving a lot of hype as the “new” redevelopment options. While they offer many valuable tools, they have many restrictions. CRIAs and EIFDs are not one-size-fits-all solutions and may not work for every community.  

The major benefit is the ability to collect tax increment revenues and issue bonds to fund projects such as infrastructure and building improvements, environmental remediation, business assistance, and affordable housing. Unlike EIFDs, CRIAs allow the use of eminent domain, but they also mandate a 25% set-aside for affordable housing.  A big hurdle is that either your agency’s share of property tax must be large enough to fund desired projects or other taxing agencies must agree to contribute. Lastly, CRIAs can be challenged by a protest vote, and EIFDs require voter approval to issue bonds

The main questions to consider are:

•    Do CRIAs or EIFDs fund the projects we need?
•    Are the proposed boundaries eligible?  
•    Will my agency’s share of property tax revenue be enough to fund projects, or will there be enough support from other taxing agencies to share the cost?
•    Will elected leaders and the community support a new CRIA or EIFD?

RSG can help you determine which tool is best, based on your area’s eligibility and needs.  Call us to learn more.

Written by Suzy Kim, a Senior Associate at RSG

Keeping Up with Community Trends

 Photo credit: USC Alumni Real Estate Network

Photo credit: USC Alumni Real Estate Network

One community trend is the transit renaissance in Los Angeles. Dima and I attended an event at which Philip Washington, the new CEO of Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, spoke about five mega-trends affecting the future of transportation in Los Angeles:

1.     Funding is crucial, but sustainable funding is a struggle. Funding comes from federal, local, and private institutions.

2.     Safety and security are priorities. Our infrastructure needs to be reliable for the next 100 years.

3.     Workforce and lifestyle changes affect travel behavior.

4.     Demographic shifts, such as gentrification, should be addressed as transit-oriented development breaks ground.

5.     By accelerating technological advances, we can better serve the public. Uber and Metro are partnering to provide access to the new Expo line.

 Photo credit: USC Alumni Real Estate Network

Photo credit: USC Alumni Real Estate Network

Washington’s points set the stage for a potential ballot measure, expected to go to LA County voters in the November ballot. It would raise $120 billion over a 40-year period to fund transportation infrastructure maintenance and construction. The measure would augment Measure R—the current half-cent sales tax—by an additional half-cent. It would also extend the sales tax by another 18 years. More details regarding the plan can be found here.

RSG keeps up with trends affecting communities. To learn more about how RSG’s knowledge can benefit your project, call us today.

Written by Jeff Khau, a Senior Analyst at RSG

 Photo credit: USC Alumni Real Estate Network

Photo credit: USC Alumni Real Estate Network

Economic Development for People and Places

Aaron Renn recently wrote a thoughtful, balanced opinion piece about the dilemma between people-based and place-based economic development. People-based economic development is theoretically more effective. Place-based economic development, which is sometimes the only available approach for local governments because of their territorial nature, generally is structurally incentivized and provides quicker gratification.

At RSG, we are very familiar with this dilemma. Our clients are usually cities. We recognize that they need to generate property and sales taxes now to fund core services. Investments in education that pay off 20 years later (and possibly somewhere else) are needed, but difficult to justify. At the same time, with our focus on people and relationships, we know that people-based investments are more sound in the grand scheme of things.

Renn provides solid advice for state and federal governments to change the incentive structure to make it easier for local governments to pursue people-based economic development. Keeping in mind the glacial pace of state and federal policy change, we’re here to help cities balance economic development for both people and places.

Written by Dima Galkin, an Associate at RSG

How Regulation Can Help Avoid Airbnb Backlash

There has been a lot of discussion among municipalities about Airbnb and the impact of short-term rentals in the new tech-sharing economy. According to planner Jeffrey Goodman, cities may solve some of the problems with the help of more appropriate and better-enforced regulation. 

Goodman’s article in Planning magazine describes his three-part process to reduce tensions between cities, residents, short-term renters, and owners renting their property. Goodman’s three-part process is:
•    Hold Airbnb and similar rentals to the same safety, zoning, garbage, and other standards as other property owners.
•    Tailor regulations to local needs – identify the goal of the regulation to customize the regulation itself (e.g., regulation to reduce noise and traffic will differ from regulation focused on housing affordability for long-term residents).
•    Enforce regulations – coordinate with Airbnb to help owners comply with laws.

Of course, there are other considerations, such as ensuring that Airbnb property owners pay their fair share of taxes. Still, Goodman provides good advice to ensure Airbnb creates less resistance and more benefits in local communities.

Written by Dima Galkin, an Associate at RSG

Push to Expand Brownfield Cleanup in California

As developable land becomes increasingly sparse in California, federal and state governments have implemented initiatives to push developers toward the abundance of contaminated sites throughout the state. 

Among these initiatives is the recent introduction of Senate Bill (SB) 820, that seeks to extend the California Land Reuse & Revitalization Act of 2004 (CLRRA) beyond its set expiration date of January 1, 2017. The law has helped propel the cleanup and development of vacant hazardous waste sites across the state. CLRRA encourages revitalization of blighted properties by allowing purchasers of contaminated lots to negotiate a cleanup plan with the state in exchange for liability protection from damages associated with the original contamination. Senator Bob Hertzberg, along with sponsorship from CALED’s Brownfield & Land Revitalization Committee (BLRC), have been the leading force behind SB 820.

Another big movement to clean blighted sites has been the availability of numerous funding programs, all with varying eligibility requirements and fund limits. The Center for Creative Land Recycling recently held its “Back in Business: Resources for Redevelopment & Land Recycling” workshop, highlighting the major players involved in funding within California, including: US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), and California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DRSC).

RSG understands that recycling abandoned and under-utilized properties is challenging for all parties involved, but with the right team and knowledge it can be a truly rewarding project. RSG is experienced with all facets of brownfield remediation, such as identifying and obtaining funding; projecting assessment, cleanup and development costs; community outreach; and management of third party consultants. We are also actively involved with CALED’s Brownfield & Land Revitalization Committee and pursuing new development opportunities with clients continually. Call us to find out how we can help you navigate the process.

Written by Nate Gunderman, an Associate at RSG

Homebuilders Giving Back to the Community

Every Wednesday night Granville Homes, located in the Central Valley, provides free meals to the community of Firebaugh. Working in conjunction with the Salvation Army, the company welcomes anyone to come and enjoy a hot meal from 5 to 7 p.m. Typically 200 to 500 (!) people come for delicious meals such as beef stew. This is part of the Granville Foundation’s focus on programs that provide access to food, shelter, healthcare, and education for people in need.  

The Granville Foundation was created to help improve the wellbeing of people in the Central Valley, the United States, and the world. According to the Granville Homes website, “Our passion drives our involvement in programs that provide access to food, shelter, healthcare, and education for people in need.”

Kudos to the company for recognizing the needs of the communities it serves. Companies can make a profit by developing communities while contributing to disadvantaged people. The free community dinners create a sense of place, bring the community together, and help those in need. More businesses should consider giving back in a direct and meaningful way. 

Written by Tara Matthews, a Principal at RSG