San Gabriel Valley cities to band together to seek affordable housing funding

October 21, 2019

San Gabriel Valley cities will soon be able to band together to seek local, state and federal funding to build housing and fund services to reduce homelessness across the region.

Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law Senate Bill 751, authored by state Sen. Susan Rubio, D-Baldwin Park, which creates a trust for communities in the jurisdiction of the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments to fund and assist the homeless and people of extremely low, very low and low incomes.

“This is something I wanted to do as a Baldwin Park City Council member,” Rubio said. “One of my frustrations was we didn’t have enough funds to house the homeless.”

The trust will be allowed to receive both public and private financing to achieve its goals, which means the trust will be able to solicit donations and grant funding, from the federal level to the local level, including Los Angeles County Measure H funding, according to Paul Hubler, director of government and community relations for the council of governments, a joint powers authority made up of representatives from 30 cities, three Los Angeles County supervisorial districts and three municipal water districts.

“From the perspective of the council of governments, this regional housing trust will be a game changer for our area,” Hubler said. “It’ll make our region far more competitive than individual cities are in seeking and securing grant funding for low income housing and homelessness programs.”

Measure H, the quarter-percent county sales tax to fund homeless services approved by voters in 2017, raises about $355 million annually. However, San Gabriel Valley cities have expressed frustration over the lack of Measure H money coming back to the cities in the form of grants.

On Tuesday, as the Covina City Council discussed homelessness in the city, City Manager Brian Saeki estimated that while sales in the city contribute about $2.47 million a year to Measure H, the city has only seen a return of about $400,000 across the two years the measure has been active.

Covina found some success in securing Measure H funds by banding together with Azusa, Duarte, Glendora and West Covina to request $343,250 to hire case managers to help local homeless people connect with services.

Richard Corral, who once led the San Gabriel Valley Consortium on Homelessness, consulted Rubio as she crafted the bill. He said one of the bigger challenges all of the cities in the region face is building affordable housing, which the housing trust could help address.

Working collaboratively, affordable housing could be easier to fund and build, Corral said.

“All of these cities are independently trying to fight for resources and trying to enact policies independently of each other in order to address an issue that actually exceeds their boundaries,” Corral said. “That’s why bringing them together is so significant.”

Part of the initial funding for the trust will come from the $5.6 million in state funding Rubio secured for the San Gabriel Valley, though the exact amount has not yet been narrowed down, Hubler said.

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Rubio said her work on homelessness won’t end with securing the $5.6 million or creating the housing trust and that she hopes to inspire other regions to seek innovative solutions to help house their residents.

“I want us to be a model for the county and even all of California, and I think we can get there,” Rubio said.