No Place Like Home program addresses affordable housing issues

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Fiona Ma is the 2nd District Board of Equalization (B.O.E.) board member, December 2, 2014. Her counties are Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Lassen, portion of Los Angeles, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Modoc, Mono, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, portion of San Bernardino, San Joaquin, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tulare, Tuolumne, and Yuba.

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The California Health Facilities Financing Authority recently announced the sale of $500 million in revenue bonds to fund the No Place Like Home, or NPLH, program.

The program, operated by the California Department of Housing and Community Development, or HCD, was enacted in 2016 by former state governor Jerry Brown. According to the HCD website, the program dedicated nearly $2 billion to develop permanent supportive housing for individuals who are homeless or live with mental illnesses.

“The No Place Like Home Program (NPLH) provides funding and tools that allow the California Department of Housing and Community Development (Department) to address affordability issues associated with creating housing units that are specifically set aside for persons with serious mental illness who are chronically homeless, homeless, or at-risk of being chronically homeless,” the NPLH program guidelines said.

For a county to be eligible to receive grants from NPLH, it must meet a series of initial threshold requirements and undergo a financial feasibility evaluation.

The first two rounds of funding took place in March and June, culminating in the allocation of $509 million to counties across the state. HCD awarded more than $10 million to the city of Berkeley to help finance part of the Berkeley Way Project and the 1601 Oxford Street development, which are both affordable housing projects.

The Berkeley Way Project is one of the largest affordable housing developments in the city’s history, according to Stefan Elgstrand, spokesperson for Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín. The city received about $5.5 million through NPLH to finance the construction of the Hope Center. Elgstrand added that the Hope Center will contain 53 units of permanent housing for individuals who are homeless or have a disability.

The 1601 Oxford Street development will provide affordable housing to seniors who are low-income and homeless. The project’s sponsor, Satellite Affordable Housing Associates, received $4.5 million to build 35 housing units. Construction will be completed by early 2021.

The bonds will be repaid with funding from the Mental Health Services Act, according to HCD spokesperson Alicia Murillo. The act, previously known as Proposition 63, was passed in 2004 and provided increased funding and other resources for county mental health programs across the state through a 1% income tax on individuals earning more than $1 million.

According to Elgstrand, NPLH has played an important supportive role in financing housing projects in Berkeley.

“The city has been taking on significant investments in addressing homelessness and mental health,” Elgstrand said. “However, we need support from other agencies, such as the state, to help fund the projects and services. The funds from No Place Like Home will relieve the financial burden on the city to move these important projects forward.”

Contact Aditya Katewa at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @adkatewa1.