Rental apartments available through the San Diego Housing Commission
A housing pool can eliminate barriers for residents who don’t normally meet requirements for subsidized housing, and incentivize landlords to participate, said director of the county Health and Human Services Agency. Courtesy SDHC

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Tuesday in favor of exploring a partnership that could provide more housing options for those at risk of homelessness.

After an update in 60 days, the board will vote on whether the county will work with the Regional Task Force on the Homeless, with a focus on the unincorporated area.

The partnership, according to the county, would involve a flexible housing subsidy pool using private and public funding sources.

A housing pool can eliminate barriers for residents who don’t normally meet requirements for subsidized housing, and incentivize landlords to participate, said Nick Machionne, director of the county Health and Human Services Agency. He told the board that potential funding sources are available, including grants.

Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said innovative solutions like flexible housing are needed “to tackle our housing and homelessness crisis.”

While the San Diego and state economies might be booming, middle-class wages are not keeping pace, and some people who work full-time have to live in their cars, he said.

“The problem we have in our society today is a lack of empathy,” Fletcher said. “The only way for us to adjust these issues is for a collaborative effort and help people deal with (housing) gaps.”

Supervisor Kristin Gaspar cast the lone dissenting vote, citing concerns over too many regulations for additional state funding.

California’s policy doesn’t mirror new federal standards and isn’t flexible, she said, adding that addiction is a major cause of homelessness.

“Perhaps the current approach is not working,” Gaspar said. “Perhaps we’ve prioritized the most difficult group to house, rather than those who would thrive with accountability.”

Supervisor Dianne Jacob was supportive of the flexible housing program, but said the county should develop spending criteria and guiding principles.

Before voting, board members heard from advocates and residents in favor of better and more affordable housing options.

Tamera Kohler, CEO of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless, said her agency could contribute $1.8 million toward a flexible housing program.

Because access to rental units in a tight market are huge challenges, flexible housing could also mean more funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Kohler said.

— City News Service

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