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City Council Votes To Add More Than 1,000 Housing Units By 2021

A man pushes a cart filled blankets, clothes and a chair balanced on top down 17th Street in San Diego, Calif., July 20, 2017.
Guillermo Sevilla
A man pushes a cart filled blankets, clothes and a chair balanced on top down 17th Street in San Diego, Calif., July 20, 2017.
City Council Votes To Add More Than 1,000 Housing Units By 2021
City Council Votes To Add More Than 1,000 Housing Units By 2021 GUEST: Chris Ward, councilman, city of San Diego

The San Diego City Council pledged its support yesterday to building more than 1200 supportive housing units by 2021. And what's more the unanimous vote agreed to spread the units across all nine city council districts. The new housing units would be geared toward getting unsheltered homeless people off the streets and it would boost San Diego's available supportive housing by 30 percent. But while Tuesday's vote was unanimous it did not legally commit any particular district to accept any particular housing project. Joining me is Councilman Chris Ward from District 3 and Councilman Ward. Welcome to the program. Thank you Maureen could you start by describing what transitional housing is and what this resolution says. It's a great question. So permanent supportive housing is the type of more intensive housing developments that also have wraparound services onsite necessary to assist homeless chronic homeless individuals with the full range of social services that they may need to be successful and stay housed. So we know that we have far far we have very very little of that housing type here in San Diego far less per capita than most major metropolitan areas and we need to build more. One of the challenges as we have slowly built a few more projects one at a time has been a lot of neighborhood opposition and I understand nobody is really sure what this housing type is what it might mean for impacts in the neighborhood and they think they're taking all of the solutions on themselves. And that doesn't need to be true. This is a city wide issue. We can solve homelessness equitably across our city if we all find a little place across the city to be able to accommodate new housing types. What did City Council members agree to in terms of where the housing would go. So you're right. So basically this the this is there are four steps and the first step is having political will agreeing that this is a city wide for and that we should be looking under every opportunity site to be able to develop new housing. We have already begun some preliminary work to identify some city owned parcels but we want to certainly allow for public private partnerships and other opportunity sites that might be right for development. We are looking at new funding for either federal or state sourced funding. And you heard from housing developers yesterday as well that just by showing this resolution of support this political will they would be more inclined to want to partner with the city and find financing to be able to develop new projects. When we say supportive housing what do we mean what kind of services will be included so permanent supportive housing is a type of housing that has a range of services on site and available for those clients so it could be mental health that could be acute care clinical or it could be psychological job training. Sometimes you know individuals may need to be there once a week but at least the opportunity is available on site for clients that may need a range of services. Did the council members agree to the same number of transitional housing units in each district. So what is a goal. So what the goal was through the resolution was to identify locations for 140 permanent supportive housing units in every council district. When you multiply that across nine council districts you get to 2260 units which matches the number of chronic homeless that we have on our streets. From our recent point in time count. So what does goal or commitment actually mean in this context. Is there any guarantee the units will be built and in every district. So that is certainly the goal that we want to stay in line with. I hearken back to the city's efforts about two and a half years ago when we started the housing our heroes program and the mayor set a goal to house 1000 veterans in 12 months. It took 18 months because there was a little bit of a challenge in the startup of that but we got there and we got there because we had a particular goal in mind a mission through landlord engagements we actually identified 600 new landlord that had never collaborated with the Housing Commission before you connected all the dots and you eventually keep working at it until you get to that goal and so through much of the same effort here today we have a broad understanding of where we want to go and now it's on all of us has nine council members to look within our council districts help identify locations. Look at the available financing that's coming down in the next three years and connect all the dots. Now Councilman Ward apparently at this point there are no transitional housing units in districts 1 2 and 5. So isn't there reason to think that there will be opposition to building units in those districts. Our hope is they cover a lot of geography as well that there would be very appropriate sites. I think things that are close to public transit and public transit exists and all of those districts as well is one key factor. But I think if we can show the communities that we're not trying to place all the solutions onto one community but we are looking across multiple communities across the city I think you'll understand that this is a shared solution and it's the right thing to do. Now you mentioned this and also the San Diego Union Tribune reported that San Diego has the lowest number of supportive housing units per capita of any major U.S. city. Do you have a sense of how that situation developed. Why didn't we keep up with the need. You know I don't know what happened over the last couple of decades but it is what it is today. It's not meeting the needs of some of the chronic homeless that we have on the streets. Perhaps some other cities particularly East Coast cities got the ball rolling you know 30 40 years ago to develop more housing types of those nature. And you know we also have been disadvantaged as a West Coast city. We don't receive our fair share of federal funding per capita from HUD and that's something that we've been trying to correct for several years. Now it's going to take the federal administration to agree to those changes as well. You know Maureen that we have the fourth largest homeless population in but the 22nd 22nd in amount of federal funding per capita. So we have a ways to go to close that gap. And as we were able to secure more I want to make sure that we are putting those into housing solutions that show the biggest impact the biggest bang for the buck and permanent supportive housing will make the biggest difference for getting people off of our streets. When do you think we'll see the first of these transitional housing proposals come before the council. Well the good news is that there's already proposals somewhere in the pipeline. Summer in just a proposal phase some are actually under construction or design. I think we have about eight projects right now that are going on city wide so some council districts are already already be a little bit ahead in trying to meet this goal for the next two and a half years. I've been speaking with Councilman Chris Ward and Councilman Ward. Thank you.

The San Diego City Council Wednesday unanimously pledged to build more than 1,000 total housing units for the city's homeless population by January 2021.

Under the resolution approved on a 9-0 vote, at least 140 units of permanent supportive housing will be added in each council district by January 2021, totaling 1,260 units.

RELATED: Homelessness: I Feel Your Pain, Or Do I?

The Los Angeles City Council approved a similar plan in February to build at least 222 new housing units in each of its 15 districts by July 2020.

According to data from San Diego's 2018 Point in Time Homeless Count, there are around 2,630 homeless and unsheltered residents in the city as well as roughly 1,227 households that deal with chronic homelessness.

"This action demonstrates the commitment of this City Council to creating real housing opportunities designed to lift individuals and families out of crisis and move them into the safety and security of a home," said District 3 City Councilman Chris Ward. "I look forward to working with my council colleagues to ensure supportive housing is distributed equitably throughout San Diego so we can effectively meet citywide housing needs."

Permanent supportive housing combines low-barrier housing units with support services like job training and physical and mental healthcare. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness and data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, permanent supportive housing has reduced the number of people dealing with chronic homelessness by 27 percent from 2007 to 2017.

RELATED: Tents, Clothes, Personal Items May Start Piling Up Now That Homeless Storage Facility Is Full

Ward's district, which includes downtown San Diego, North Park, Hillcrest, Little Italy and Old Town, currently paces the other eight both in the number of homeless residents, with 1,093, and the number of supportive housing units, with 999. District 9, represented by Georgette Gomez, has the second-highest number of supportive housing units at 116. Districts 1, 2 and 5 all had zero supportive housing units when the city collected homelessness data earlier this year.

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