The Orange County Board of Supervisors last week approved $3 million for two affordable housing programs, one that will provide loans and fees to developers to buy and rehablitate single-family homes and another that will provide temporary assistance to people on the verge of homelessness.
The board approved $2.5 million for the Affordable Rental Housing Program through which a developer can borrow up to $510,000 to buy a home in an Orange County neighborhood, fix it up and rent it to a family that is eligible for housing assistance.
Karen Roper, director of county Community Services, said the supervisors' action would "help us to reduce the 50,000-person waiting list we have in Orange County for affordable housing."
The board approved that program and $500,000 for the Tenant-Based Rental Assistance Program on a 3-1 vote, with Supervisor John Moorlach voting no and Supervisor Pat Bates absent.
Moorlach said he voted no on both programs because he wanted it made more clear that they only have one year of guaranteed funding.
Roper said that a total of four or five homes will likely be acquired through the Affordable Rental Housing Program and that they will be located in cities throughout the county. Homes will not be purchased in cities with their own housing authorities, such as Anaheim, Santa Ana and Garden Grove.
The program, which is funded largely with money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is similar to the Neighborhood Stabilization Program that was part of the federal government's response to the Great Recession.
It requires that everyone in a project home be related, and it has strict family size limits, Roper said. Families must be between four and six members for a three-bedroom home and six to eight members for a four-bedroom home, she said.
In addition to the family size limits, the developer, before buying the home, will be required to speak to neighbors and homeowners associations to make sure there would be no major opposition.
The program, with its occupancy, neighborhood notification and strict maintenance requirements, holds the developers to much higher standards than market housing, Roper said.
But along with those standards come financial guarantees and incentives for the developers that are far more generous than those in the private market.
The program provides interest-free loans that run for 55 years. The loans do not require any payments until a balloon payment at the end of the 55 years, even though developers will be collecting rent throughout the term, albeit at below market rates.
In addition, the program provides up to $50,000 to rehabilitate the home, and the developer receives a fee equal to 10 percent of the total development costs. The fee will typically be between $50,000 and $60,000, Roper acknowledged.
Such incentives are needed, Roper said, to ensure that the program endures.
"This is a way to build a bridge and get 55 years of affordable housing," she said. "The community might get the wrong message that this is a giveaway program, but [the developers] are being held to very strict standards. It is not a freebee."
The Tenant-Based Rental Assistance Program consists of a $500,000 fund dedicated to temporary assistance for households facing eviction and for others who have recently become homeless. The premise of this so-called "rapid re-housing" is if people can be helped through crisis periods like eviction or foreclosure, they will not join the ranks of the long-term homeless, Roper said.
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