Supervisors Back Plan to Ease Low-Cost Housing Crunch : County: Top priorities are renovating existing units, replacing dilapidated ones and sheltering the homeless.
Orange County’s low-cost housing needs are “approaching a crisis” and developers “must play a stronger role” in the construction and rehabilitation of affordable housing, according to a public housing strategy endorsed Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors.
Among the top priorities in the five-year plan presented to the supervisors are the renovation of the existing affordable housing stock and the replacement of dilapidated units to help meet the needs of the almost 60,000 low- and very low-income households eligible for county assistance.
Providing shelter for Orange County’s estimated 10,000 homeless residents also is listed as a top goal, with a lesser priority placed on financial assistance to first-time home buyers, according to the report.
The five-year public housing strategy is required for the county to remain eligible for millions of dollars in federal housing assistance funds for the communities it serves, including 16 cities and 15 unincorporated areas of the county. But the report also serves to track housing needs and the county’s response to the growing problem.
If the county meets its first-year goal, 986 new or rehabilitated housing units would become available for low-income, elderly, disabled, and other residents needing help. And the number of shelter beds for the homeless would increase by almost 200, for a total of 1,079.
“We think that’s a pretty good start on tackling the needs of the county,” said Al Bye, manager of the county’s Housing Program Services. “The demand is still great, but we are finding additional funding sources to address that need as it increases.”
But the report came in for criticism from Lee Podolak, chairwoman of the Orange County Homeless Issues Task Force, who told the supervisors the plan does not do enough to help low-income renters, who make up 47% of the households needing assistance.
The Orange County Housing Authority currently provides rent subsidies to an estimated 6,367 households, but the waiting list for assistance now stands at 3,643, according to the report.
Podolak also said after the board vote that county officials need to aggressively engage the participation of developers in affordable housing construction, not just endorse the idea.
The county “can call for all sorts of construction, but if they don’t go out and seek it out and make it happen, it won’t happen.”
County officials say they have encouraged developers to set aside a portion of their residential construction projects for affordable housing.
Since 1990, the county has issued about $6 million in loans to private developers in partnership with nonprofit groups for construction of 531 affordable housing units, the report states.
Under the plan approved Tuesday, the county plans to combine almost $2 million in redevelopment funds with an additional $7.4 million in federal grants to upgrade 456 housing units during the next year.
The county has also entered into negotiations with private developers to provide public funding assistance in exchange for affordable housing units. Three pending projects include:
* Pacific Villas Apartments in an unincorporated area of Aliso Viejo. The county would loan the developer about $1.2 million for the project that would add 128 affordable housing units.
* Irvine Inn, in the city of Irvine. The county is negotiating a loan totaling about $2 million in exchange for 286 single-room-occupancy units for the “working poor.”
* Inn At Woodbridge, also in Irvine. The county is considering a $600,000 loan for the project, which envisions building 116 low-cost units.