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Santa Monica To Ramp Up Rental Subsidies For Seniors

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Over the last year, the city has experimented with sending rental checks to nearly two dozen seniors on the brink of homelessness. Now it plans to significantly expand the program.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 A disturbing number of California seniors are losing their apartments and ending up homeless because they can't afford higher rents. Santa Monica though has been experimenting with giving cash assistance to low income seniors and the pilot program there has been so successful. The city is planning to expand it as part of our California dream collaboration. KPBS is a meet the Sharma reports.

Speaker 2: 00:23 I first met Kay last year in Santa Monica dressed in red with matching lipstick. The 70 year old had barely been making it on her thousand dollars a month. Social Security checks. If I didn't have money to eat after paying my monthly bills, I just didn't need. Kay was one of nearly two dozen elderly people. Santa Monica chose for its pilot. The city wanted to help cash, poor seniors stay housed so it cut checks for a few hundred dollars each month to them or their landlords. When I met Kay last year, she said it was working. If it weren't for the city of Santa Monica helping me, I would probably by now have been evicted and on the street and now a year in how are things I called k backup. Oh, so much

Speaker 1: 01:10 better. I haven't been to a food bank, but twice in the last year

Speaker 2: 01:16 the city of Santa Monica says there was a 3% rise in senior homelessness in 2018 but no one in its rental subsidies. Pilot programs suffered that fate showing some success. Santa Monica is director of Housing and economic development and Diego says that's incentive to do more.

Speaker 1: 01:35 Would like to now expand this program 10 fold. We're taking our program from $200,000 a year to $2 million a year. That's a huge ramp up.

Speaker 2: 01:46 The city council backed the idea and Santa Monica will expand the program early next year. Eagle says he anticipates the city. We'll be able to help 250 to 400 senior households with the additional money.

Speaker 1: 01:59 What I'm pleased about and a bit surprised about is that we haven't received broader pushback from people that might say, how can you just give people money without strings attached? That's irresponsible.

Speaker 3: 02:11 I think when it comes to housing, people get it. People every day see other people struggling with housing. They see it in the most visible way, which is people living on the streets

Speaker 2: 02:22 that state Senator Scott Wiener, he represents San Francisco.

Speaker 3: 02:26 The everyone you know knows either a family member or a friend or has a neighbor, particularly seniors who they see struggling and they want to help. There's no real controversy around that.

Speaker 2: 02:37 Wiener points to the state's housing shortage. He supports rental subsidy programs for low income people to stay in their homes, especially seniors. State lawmakers have set aside $2 billion which cities and counties can use toward homeless services and emergency rental assistance in Los Angeles. Homeless Services Authority director Peter Lynn, applaud Santa Monica as rental subsidies, but he worries about longterm sustainability.

Speaker 4: 03:05 The test is going to be when we see a downturn or recession where we see reductions in tax revenues for municipalities. That's where the pressure on those kinds of programs comes very strongly.

Speaker 2: 03:17 Santa Monica is, Eagle is confident in the investment officials there have taken into account a potential recession. These types of approaches are becoming more prevalent, more realistic, and as I talked to people from other places, there's a lot of interest in it, and k, she remains grateful for the extra cash. It's just taken so much stress out of my life, being able to do the things that I need to do, like pay bills. It's a godsend. She says it helps her stay in this community. She loves in San Diego. I'm Amethyst Sharma.

Speaker 5: 04:00 [inaudible].

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.