High Marks for Innovative Community Parks

Little_Boy_2Parks are happy places. Children are laughing and playing. Moms, dads, and caregivers are taking advantage of rare opportunities to talk with other adults.

Parks are also healthy places. Kids may not even realize it, but all of that running, jumping, climbing, and swinging equals actual exercise. And strolling in the fresh air helps parents decompress as well.

It seems the only downside to parks is there aren’t quite enough of them in California, especially in lower income neighborhoods. HCD’s Housing-Related Parks Program delivers an innovative solution to this park-deficiency problem and makes it easy for communities to apply for and receive grants to fund new parks and make improvements to existing parks.

And that’s not all. The Parks program incentivizes and rewards communities that approve lower income housing.

So, more parks, more affordable housing, more happy, healthy people … all wrapped up in one inventive package.

Now on its fourth funding round, the Housing-Related Parks Program continues to experience high demand. A total of 55 applications recently requested nearly $34 million in grant funds.

Communities are using their grant funds in a variety of ways. For example, one awardee, the City of Merced is using its $828,775 grant for improvements to Stephen Leonard Park, including installation of ADA-compliant sidewalks and ramps, playground equipment, landscaping, lighting, climbing rocks, bike racks, benches and tables.

A grant of $553,000 is going toward the replacement of playground equipment and the rehabilitation of a park community center, amenities and grounds at MacArthur Park in the City of Long Beach.

The City and County of San Francisco received the largest award in the last round of funding. Their $6.3 million will fund a variety of projects for a variety of people, including the renovation of the Donaldina Cameron community center and the Dr. George W. Davis senior center as well as the redesign of several playgrounds.

Qualifying city and county applicants receive awards based on the number of bedrooms in newly constructed, or substantially rehabilitated rental and ownership units, and on the income levels of the residents they plan to serve, as in the schedule below:

  • $2,200 (per bedroom) for qualifying low-income units
  • $2,475 (per bedroom) for very low-income units
  • $2,725 (per bedroom) for extremely low-income units

Find out more about HCD’s fantastic Housing-Related Parks program. Your community may be the next one we serve!

Creating a Welcome Mat for California Veterans

WelcomeMatWithin the last 10 days, some major milestones have been achieved on the Veterans Housing and Homelessness Prevention Program.

Program guidelines were adopted on February 18 and just days later, the initial Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) for approximately $75 million was announced.

HCD, CalHFA and CalVet have been working side by side to plan and produce this valuable housing program for veterans. A total of about $600 million is authorized through General Obligation Bonds to acquire, construct, and rehabilitate multifamily permanent and supportive housing for homeless and low income veterans and their families.

Leon Winston, a formerly homeless veteran is committed to helping vets break through the cultural, educational, psychological, and economic barriers they often face in their transition to the civilian world. As Chief Operating Officer and Housing Director of a not-for-profit veteran’s services organization, Swords to Plowshares, Winston is also a vocal advocate of the Veterans Housing and Homelessness Prevention Program. “The very nature of the funding for this program will create an infrastructure of supportive and deeply affordable housing for the future.”

Winston points out how newer veterans are now coming home to California from the Middle East, and housing that is specifically developed for lower income vets will offer a warm and affordable welcome to many of these soldiers.

Nearly two million veterans in California add up to the largest veteran population in the country; unfortunately, about 12,000 of these men and women have no place to call home, which is one of the reasons the Veterans Housing and Homelessness Prevention Program is so critical.

Great Programs are Built through Great Partnerships

Working collaboratively with the California Housing Finance Agency and the California Department of Veterans Affairs, HCD is designing, developing, and preparing to administer a new $600 million program that will help provide housing stability for veterans across the state.

California is home to nearly two million veterans, the largest veteran population in the nation. Unfortunately, California also leads the nation in the number of veterans who are homeless: Nearly 15,000 veterans experience homelessness in California on a given night.

That pattern will soon be changing, thanks to the voters’ approval of Proposition 41 on american-flag-backgroundJune 3, 2014. That proposition was placed on the ballot by AB 639 (Perez), passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Brown in 2013. It created the Veterans Housing and Homeless Prevention (VHHP) program and made available $600 million in previously approved CalVet funds for the acquisition, construction, and rehabilitation of multi-family housing for homeless and low income veterans and their families. Half of the funds provided through the VHHP program will be reserved for veteran households with extremely low incomes. Of those, 60 percent will be supportive housing units.

Collaboration and partnerships will be crucial to the success of the VHHP program. It started with California voters recognizing the vital need for affordable housing for our vets. It has continued with HCD, CalHFA, and CalVet jointly holding public stakeholder meetings across the state to gather input on the framework, guidelines, and implementation plan for the VHHP. The partnering will not end there. Other allies, veterans, nonprofits, and jurisdictions will be included in a feedback cycle as the VHHP continues to develop. Ultimately, producing the sustainable outcomes for veterans envisioned will be a product of the partnership forged between housing developers, service providers, and the local community.

The initial Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) will be approximately $75 million with applications due in March 2015. The award date will likely be in June 2015.

For additional information on the VHHP program, stakeholder opportunities, proposed implementation timeframes, background information, and program publications, please see the VHHP program website. The program has also established an email listserv and encourages all those interested in receiving VHHP program updates to register their email addresses. For any questions regarding the VHHP program, please contact program staff at hcdvets@hcd.ca.gov

Real Stories About Real People

HCD programs have a significant impact on communities. The general practice is to quantify this effect, in numbers, dollars, and units. Perhaps a more compelling way to explore HCD’s successes is through the voices of the individuals and families who have lived them.

That’s the concept behind a project recently launched by HCD’s Communication division. A few individuals and families who have benefited from HCD-funded projects are being identified and interviewed on camera for a “Success Story” video project.

From farmworkers to seniors to single moms, these residents of the Golden State tell their stories about how their lives have been transformed, thanks to HCD and its partners.

The most recent testimonial comes from Crystal Gonzalez-Fernandez. Crystal’s IMG_2003connection with HCD is through the department’s Office of Migrant Services (OMS) program. She was born in Bakersfield and every year during the growing season, her family migrates to Watsonville where they live in a clean and simple home at the Buena Vista Migrant Center. As an agricultural worker, Crystal’s father spends long, mostly sunny days picking fruit and loading crates in a strawberry field. These delicious berries are packaged right on the spot and are quickly shipped to grocery stores across California under the Driscoll’s brand. IMG_2075

Crystal and her father tell the story of how the affordability and dependability of their farmworker housing have made it possible for Crystal and her identical twin sister to attend Cabrillo College, just a few miles away. The reduced rent the family pays allows the twins to spend their days in the classroom instead of the field alongside her father and other workers. Crystal’s father takes pride in his work, but he hopes for a less strenuous life for his girls after their college graduation.

The Success Story project will collect other testimonial interviews, which along with Crystal’s, will create a video mosaic of Success Stories. Other California residents to be included are those who live in infill infrastructure developments, emergency shelters, and transit-oriented developments. This collection will paint a real picture with real people and focus on the human interest side of HCD’s mission. DVDs with the video stories will be distributed among stakeholders, Legislators, and other state agencies, and will be posted on HCD’s website.

This project presents an exciting opportunity to expand on the usual dry numbers and charts, to show in pictures and narrative the sustainable improvements HCD’s programs make in people’s lives.

Facts about Factory-Built Homes

FBH Roseville 2You may have heard of manufactured housing or what are commonly referred to as mobilehomes, but have you ever heard of factory-built housing? In its simplest form, factory-built housing is a factory constructed version of a site-built dwelling. Other than the fact the construction of factory-built housing takes place in a manufacturing facility, there is no difference between factory-built and site-constructed dwelling in its final form. The homes are designed and constructed with the same materials and use the same building codes as site-constructed dwellings.

This gives factory-built homes some definite advantages over site-built homes. The factory system combines engineering know-how and factory-production methods to design and build homes more efficiently and with greater quality control. The efficiency results in lower costs. Plus, building a home indoors means no concerns about weather, faster construction and less waste.

So what is HCD’s role with regard to factory-built housing? HCD is essentially the building department for the home construction work done in the factory and has administrative standards for design and inspection approval of the homes in the manufacturing facility. These rules are enforced by HCD-approved third party agencies in factories all over the country with HCD oversight. All factory-built products for sale in California must bear HCD’s insignia of approval prior to leaving the factory. Most of the factories HCD deals with are located in California, Oregon, Arizona, Utah, and Idaho, but some are in Canada, the Mid-West, and even overseas.

HCD’s role concludes when the home leaves the factory. Once the factory-built dwelling arrives at its destination, the units are assembled on-site under the authority of the local building department. The local building departments, not HCD, are responsible for inspecting the assembly and installation of factory-built units.

Factory-built housing presents an excellent opening for innovation in meeting HCD’s mission to preserve and expand safe and affordable housing opportunities for Californians. In furtherance of this, the department is pursuing ways to optimize how factory-built homes fit into the full suite of HCD activities (policy, financing and regulation) to make the most of this industry’s potential to produce much needed housing to Californians.

Harvard’s Joint Center on Housing – New Report: America’s Rental Housing: Evolving Markets and Needs

forrentReleased ~ Dec. 9, 2013

Rental housing has always provided a broad choice of homes for people at all phases of life. The recent economic turmoil underscored the many advantages of renting and raised the barriers to homeownership, sparking a surge in demand that has buoyed rental markets across the country. But significant erosion in renter incomes over the past decade has pushed the number of households paying excessive shares of income for housing to record levels.

Link to report: http://www.jchs.harvard.edu/research/publications/americas-rental-housing-evolving-markets-and-needs

HCD Funded Project is an Award Finalist

ULI Global Award Finalist: St. Joseph’s Senior Apartments

ULIThe Urban Land Institute (ULI) has named St. Joseph’s Senior Apartments, a BRIDGE development, as a finalist for the 2013 ULI Global Awards for Excellence.

Located in Oakland, CA, St. Joseph’s is one of 27 finalists in the worldwide competition, which recognizes real estate projects that achieve a high standard of excellence in design, construction, economics, planning and management. The ULI jury will announce the award winners at its fall meeting in November 2013.

St. Joseph’s Senior Apartments provides 84 affordable rental apartments for low-income seniors and 3,200 square feet of commercial space within the former main building of Oakland’s historic “St. Joseph’s Home for the Aged.” BRIDGE leveraged this deteriorating asset to create affordable infill housing while preventing the loss of a significant landmark. The rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of the Main Building included seismic upgrades and complies with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation of Historic Properties.

Many apartments feature historic windows and impeccably restored architectural details, while on-site amenities include a spacious community room on the ground floor facing a courtyard, community garden and sunny lobby areas with seating. In keeping with its commitment to quality of life for residents, BRIDGE offers programs such as social service referrals, stretch yoga, craft activities and transportation services to the seniors who live at the property.

“We are honored to be a finalist for this prestigious award,” said Cynthia A. Parker, President and CEO of BRIDGE Housing. “The St. Joseph’s affordable development preserves an important historic landmark in Oakland’s San Antonio neighborhood, and the entire campus provides a true multigenerational housing community.”

Adjacent to St. Joseph’s Senior Apartments, BRIDGE is developing 62 affordable apartments for families that will be complete in the fall of 2013.

“From an impressive array of submissions, ULI’s Global Awards Jury selected 27 outstanding projects, each of which positively impacts its larger community — sometimes modestly, but often massively,” said Jury Chairman M. Leanne Lachman, President of real estate consulting firm Lachman Associates LLC in New York, NY.  “All projects exhibit innovations in design, sustainability, adaptability to their surroundings, financial solidity, and provision of enjoyment to their many users. In one way or another, each finalist wowed the jury, which will make selection of the winners a real challenge.”

The competition is part of the Institute’s Awards for Excellence program, established in 1979, which is based on ULI’s guiding principle that the achievement of excellence in land use practice should be recognized and rewarded. ULI’s Awards for Excellence recognize the full development process of a project, not just its architecture or design. The criteria for the awards include leadership, contribution to the community, innovations, public/private partnership, environmental protection and enhancement, response to societal needs, and financial viability.