State Housing Program Seeks to Break Cycle of Homelessness and Hopelessness for California Veterans

VHHPTonight, while most of us are safe and comfortable in our homes, roughly 12,000 California veterans will be sleeping in parks, under bridges, or in their cars. That scenario will soon change, thanks to California voter approval of Proposition 41 and the resulting Veterans Housing and Homelessness Prevention (VHHP) program. Three state agencies, HCD, the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet), and the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA) joined together to develop this critical affordable housing initiative for veterans.

On June 30, the VHHP program awarded its first round of funding for 17 housing developments, setting the stage for stability for California’s low income and homeless veteran population. Together, these developments will provide safe, stable, and affordable housing for approximately 600 veterans and their families.

Because many veterans suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or other disability,    a large portion of the housing will include supportive services that are voluntary, flexible, and responsive to individual needs, such as case management, drug and/or alcohol counseling, health clinics, benefits advocacy, and family and childcare services.

The second round of VHHP awards is expected to be available this fall, giving additional housing developers an opportunity to apply for and receive funds for the acquisition, construction, rehabilitation, and preservation of affordable multifamily housing for vets

The millions of men and women who were brave enough to serve our country should not have to fight another battle once they return home. The VHHP program will help California veterans regain a sense of place, a sense of pride, and most importantly, peace.

Gray is the New Green

According to the California Housing Partnership, nonprofit housing providers are likely to struggle with the ability to offer affordable housing and potable water to their low-income residents as a result of the continuing drought conditions in California. With 2014 being the driest year on record for many parts of California, a variety of new ideas for saving water are springing up!

Housing operators are exploring innovative ways to reduce potable water use as the Graywatercost of water increases, including collecting and reusing graywater. Graywater recycling consists of diverting waste water from lavatory sinks, showers, baths and clothes washers for other uses. Traditionally, graywater has been disposed through the dwellings sewer system and not put to beneficial use. Graywater may even be used within a dwelling for toilet flushing, provided an approved onsite nonpotable graywater treatment system is installed.

The use of recycled graywater is subject to state laws and regulations which include the California Plumbing Code and California Health and Safety Code. HCD’s Division of Codes and Standards plays an integral role in researching, developing, and proposing building standards that govern residential graywater recycling systems.

HCD first developed emergency graywater regulations for the 2007 California Plumbing Code while simultaneously proposing regulations for adoption in the 2010 California Plumbing code. Both were approved by the California Building Standards Commission in 2009 after extensive stakeholder consultation and public meetings. The regulations provide details on the minimum requirements for the installation of graywater systems in occupancies regulated by HCD and are intended to provide guidance while remaining flexible to encourage the use of graywater.

Additionally, the regulations make an allowance for the installation of limited types of graywater recycling systems (clothes washer systems) without the need to acquire a permit from the local enforcing agency.

Graywater is most often recycled for use as landscape irrigation, but there is growing interest in using graywater indoors to save valuable potable water that is currently wasted by toilet flushing. Onsite treated nonpotable graywater use is achievable, but likely necessitates dual piping systems (potable and nonpotable water piping), rainwater and graywater collection tanks, plus storage, filtering, disinfecting, and distributing the treated nonpotable graywater back into dwellings.

While the idea sounds appealing, an onsite treated nonpotable graywater system that is compliant with the California Plumbing Code for indoor use can be costly. Much depends on the application and scope of the system. For example, an onsite treatment system designed for a single family home may cost in excess of $8,000.00. Onsite treated nonpotable graywater systems in multifamily housing can range from $40,000 to $90,000, based on the number of units in a building.

With California’s drought continuing to linger, gray may very well be springing up in your neighborhood!

For water saving ideas and drought facts, visit

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

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.