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Supervisor Fletcher Announces Proposal for Housing Subsidy Program

11/18/19

Today Supervisor Nathan Fletcher announced a new policy proposal for the County of San Diego to assist unsheltered individuals, veterans, and seniors on fixed incomes with gap funding for direct rental assistance and other housing related expenses so they can secure permanent housing quickly and without barriers. 

Supervisor Fletcher, who serves as Vice Chair of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless San Diego and is a member of the Governor’s Council of Regional Homeless Advisors, wants to create a Flexible Funds for Housing Program (Flex Pool)

“Implementing this program will enable us to better leverage existing state and federal resources to help people in our community who are experiencing housing instability or homelessness,” said Supervisor Fletcher. With the Flexible Funds for Housing Program we can transform the lives of those who are most vulnerable in our communities, and help keep people from becoming homeless.”  

There are limitations to state and federal rental assistance programs -- such as voucher payment standards, household income requirements, and population designations -- that limits the amount of money a person can receive from a given program. But with a Flex Pool there are fewer restrictions, which allows for the money to be made available for a wider variety of reasons, to a broader array of people. 

The “pool” money could come from many different sources including government funds, private and philanthropic, healthcare, criminal justice, and many other sectors to help families and individuals pay for rent and other expenses such as: security deposit assistance, cover past-due rent and other barriers that prevent people from maintaining permanent housing. The pool can also deploy other strategies to those that have barriers to renting in the competitive San Diego rental market, for instance, landlord engagement, negotiating master leasing or roommate sharing strategies.

The state of California has included Flex Pools as an eligible activity for the Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) and California Emergency Solutions House (CESH) programs. The County of San Diego has $2.5 million in CESH funds available that can be leveraged for the Flex Pool.   

A favorable vote on Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors will direct the County’s Chief Administrative Officer to:

  • Return to the Board of Supervisors within 90 days with a proposal, including but not limited to, developing and operating a Flexible Funds for Housing Program, which will include eligibility criteria and potential partnerships with the Regional Task Force on the Homeless or other local government entities. 
  • Identify funds within existing and future state and federal funding streams for homeless interventions, possibly including but not limited to, California Emergency Solutions and Housing Program, Homeless Emergency Aid Program and Homeless Housing, Assistance, and Prevention Program as a source
  • Add the Flexible Funds Housing Program to County’s state and federal  legislative program.

Supervisor Fletcher launched this concept at the County Administration Center with a group of advocates, government officials and non-profit leaders who are seeking new, and innovative ways to address housing instability and homelessness. Attendees included Chris Ward, San Diego City Councilmember, and Chair of Regional Task Force on the Homeless, Tamera Kohler, CEO, Regional Task Force on the Homeless and Susan Reynolds, President and CEO, Community Housing Works, Greg Anglea, CEO, Interfaith Community Services and Paola Martinez-Montes of Invest in San Diego Families Coalition. 

Examples of Success

Flex Pools are being implemented in various communities across the state and country. The most well-known model is in Los Angeles with their Department of Health Services Housing for Health Program that is managed by a nonprofit called Brilliant Corners. 

Many other communities are also operating pools including Napa County, Chicago, Illinois, and in San Bernardino County a pool is led by a large Medi-Cal health insurer to provide housing for their homeless Medi-Cal beneficiaries.

The Regional Task Force on the Homeless (RTFH) has included the creation of Flex Pool as a part of its 2019 Work Plan and has already set aside HEAP funds for this purpose. Additionally, the City of San Diego has indicated a desire to create a Flex Pool within their newly adopted Homeless Action Plan. They both could be a potential partner with whom the County pools its state and federal funds. 

Other Ways Flexible Pool Funding Can be Used

  • Master Lease Agreements: Flex Pools will allow for is something known as long term master leases. Master leases are a tool to secure private rental units placed on the market so that providers can then have an inventory of available units that can be matched with prospective tenants. Master leases can be extended to apartment complexes, ADU or companion units, etc. 
  • Better Relationships with Landlords: Landlords are sometimes leary of people who have subsidies, and do not want to rent to them. The Flex Pool program can leverage better relationships with landlords, provide assurances rents will be paid. 
  • Roommate Matching Programs: Flex Pools have the capacity to help establish robust roommate matching programs for vulnerable populations, known as “Shared Housing” which can maximize the use of apartments and homes with multiple bedrooms.