Sonoma County Takes Action to Ease the Housing Crisis

Sonoma County took significant action last week to ease the local housing crisis. With actions taken by the Board of Supervisors, the County is now set to expand emergency shelter capacity during winter months, implement innovative programs to boost homeless services, challenge federal Housing and Urban Development regulations to make housing vouchers work in Sonoma County, and invest nearly $4 million in new affordable housing construction in 2017.

“Housing is fundamental to the health of our communities,” said Board of Supervisors Chair Efren Carrillo. “Expanding housing opportunities for all in the County and providing the safety net of expanded shelters during the winter will save lives today and help families in the future.”

Covering a sweeping set of actions, the presentation given by the Community Development Commission highlighted a number of investments and programs to ease the housing crises. With the Board’s approval today, the County will now invest approximately $300,000 for a sustained expansion of emergency shelter capacity during the winter, and nearly $4 million for the development of additional affordable housing in 2017. In partnership with the City of Santa Rosa, the County will also gather the needed data to challenge existing federal criteria for housing vouchers that are dramatically out of step with local rents, making it difficult for low-income individuals and families to afford rent even with the vouchers. The County will amend its existing policies to make it easier for local veterans to use local financial assistance for housing.

In addition, the Board of Supervisors received updates about the County’s efforts to date on housing and homelessness. Highlights included the County’s investment of over $20 million in the last decade on affordable housing, over 450 homes that have been built or are in development, including the creation of nearly 300 additional units by private and non-profit developers.  The report emphasizes the collaborative work with community stakeholders to draw attention to the critical need of affordable housing in Sonoma County.

The presentation comes just a few days before the “Housing for All” summit organized by the Community Development Commission. The Executive Director of the Community Development Commissioner, Margaret Van Vliet, noted, “while these are major investments in resources and capital, we know that $4 million for new units is just the tip of the iceberg for what we need to do, and we know that making vouchers actually work for individuals in Sonoma is just the beginning of our advocacy in Washington. Our team is proud to have our leaders and community partners so committed to this issue.”