Letter of Support for St. Ambrose Senior Affordable Apartment Community

Claremont City Council
207 Harvard Ave.
Claremont, CA 91711 

Letter of Support for St. Ambrose Senior Affordable Apartment Community

Honorable Mayor and Members of the City Council:

Housing Claremont very strongly supports our neighbors, Saint Ambrose Episcopal Church and their partner National CORE as they develop a new permanently affordable senior housing community on the St. Ambrose Episcopal Church campus, 830 Bonita Ave. We are proud of the congregation at St. Ambrose and “we have their back.” We call on you and the city staff to support them vigorously in this development, one of several opportunities where we are committed to supporting this reuse of available land owned by religious congregations all around us.

The proposed affordable senior development will provide decency, kindness and comfort in rent-restricted homes for households that are not affluent. It will offer a mix of about 60 one- bedroom and two-bedroom apartments and a range of onsite community amenities. We are certain that there is at last a broad Claremont consensus as well as a broad California consensus to support abundant affordable housing for various special need, rent burdened and unhoused folks. That consensus has not always been heard. We advocate for affordable housing at opportunity sites across all residential parts of our city, and in the many nearby cities as well.

Homelessness, poverty, and lack of opportunity are a priority crisis. Each city and county must fulfill their Housing Plans and mandated share of solving the statewide housing crisis. Never has there been a stronger desire to end homelessness and create housing. Affordability and lack of housing supply are a persistent, escalating challenge across Southern California for families, veterans, people with disabilities, essential workers who can’t afford to
live anywhere near their work. The challenge hits hard on the rapidly growing senior population as home and rent prices continue to climb. Your 2021-2028 Housing Element reports that the city’s senior population has increased 46% since 2000, and that 37% of senior households are cost-burdened. Of these households, 62% are renters. We need much more new local affordable housing alternatives for the elderly – such as what is proposed at St. Ambrose.

Respectfully submitted,
Rev. Gene Boutilier, on behalf of the Board of the Housing and Homelessness Collaborative of Claremont.
Cc: The pastor and people of St Ambrose Episcopal Church

Here’s How Houston Is Fighting Homelessness — and Winning

A photograph of a woman with long red hair and a black sweater with a large blue H on the front. She stands in front of a dirt path among trash and other goods.

By Nicholas Kristof
Mr. Kristof is an NYT Opinion columnist who reported from Houston and Dallas for this story. Mr. Fortune is a documentary photographer based in Austin, Texas, and New York.

Dallas and Houston are two Democratic bubbles in Texas that have long faced the familiar urban ache of homeless people slumped on sidewalks and camping in parks. Both cities tried to address the challenge.

But smart policy matters far more than good intentions. In Dallas, homelessness worsened for years, and that city now has the most unhoused people in Texas. Meanwhile, the Houston region has slashed homelessness by more than 60 percent since 2011.

A photograph of several people sitting and standing next to a fence under an elevated road.

Homelessness is one of those topics that leaves Americans despairing, but Houston offers hope: It demonstrates what should be obvious, that a wealthy society doesn’t have to accept as inevitable throngs of people sleeping on sidewalks. Delegations from around the country now troop to Houston to seek lessons, with the mayors of Chicago, Los Angeles and Denver traipsing through this summer.

Houston achieved its results on the cheap, spending very little of its own money even as West Coast cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland, Ore., have each poured hundreds of millions of dollars into efforts to address homelessness without much to show for them.

So what is Houston’s secret?

There were arguably three elements. First, the city had strong political leaders who herded nonprofits so that they worked in unison rather than competing. Second, Houston’s lack of regulation makes it easy, quick and cheap to build new apartments: Building a small one-bedroom can cost less than $200,000, while Los Angeles spent as much as $837,000 per apartment for people who were homeless. Third, Houston focused less on general help, such as handing out jackets or providing counseling, and more on moving people into apartments and providing ongoing care to keep them housed.

The turning point came in 2011, when Houston had the fifth-highest number of homeless people in America. That’s when the mayor at the time, Annise Parker, a numbers-driven policy wonk, introduced hardheaded new initiatives that her successor, Sylvester Turner, sustained. What unfolded wasn’t a triumph of compassion so much as one of evidence, management and impeccable execution, and in that, there are probably broader lessons for governing.

To see what Houston’s approach looked like in practice, I shadowed Molly Permenter, an outreach worker, one morning. Permenter told me she had fled an abusive home at the age of about 16, slept under park benches, used drugs and was sex trafficked. She finally escaped and entered the Coast Guard, turned her life around and eventually joined Houston’s Coalition for the Homeless to try to help others in the position she had once been in.

Permenter understands the challenges. She guesses that if an outreach worker had ever approached her when she was on the street, she might have cursed that person.

After parking her car by a small wooded area near George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Permenter cautiously entered the forest along with a colleague from the coalition. We found an encampment hidden in the trees, home to 10 people whose unofficial leader was a charismatic 31-year-old named Joe Cavazos.

Lean and muscular, Cavazos said he was a construction worker until a shard of glass fell and cut his arm six months earlier, leaving him partly disabled. He lost his job, his car and his home, but he put his skills to use building shacks; one was a two-story marvel made of wood scraps.

Clearly intelligent and industrious, Cavazos said he was expelled from high school in the 11th grade but later studied electronics at a trade school. He told me that while homeless he made a living fixing televisions and computers and reselling them. A neighboring business owner offered a different account, saying that some people in the encampment stole equipment to sell. While I was chatting with Cavazos, the business owner approached us. Cavazos angrily leaped to his feet, and for a moment I worried that they were close to a fistfight. But the business owner quickly retreated, seething.

Cavazos said he had once struggled with alcohol but had been sober for eight years. I asked about drugs and didn’t get a clear answer, but he did volunteer that he was off his mental health medication.

“It made me feel worse,” he said. I asked what his diagnosis was.

“I got A.D.H.D., bipolar personality disorder, schizo, that’s what they’re telling me,” he said. “I don’t know. I’m perfectly fine.”

A photograph of a man in a black tank tops holding his hands on his shoulders. He wears rings on his fingers and has tattoos on an arm.
Joe Cavazos

Permenter asked Cavazos if he would like to get on a wait list for housing. He said yes but didn’t know where to start. When he agreed to undergo an assessment, Permenter asked him a series of standardized questions.

One of Houston’s most important innovations was to establish Coalition for the Homeless there as an independent, outside agency to coordinate 100 nonprofits, so that they could all address homelessness under the umbrella of an effort called The Way Home. In other cities, organizations are well meaning but scattered, so one homeless person may have contact with three nonprofits while another has contact with none — and these initiatives may not be tightly focused on getting a roof over someone’s head.

In a recent survey by The Oregonian, two-thirds of unsheltered people in Portland said that they had never been approached by an outreach worker offering steps to get housed. And among the one-third who had been contacted, there had been no follow-up in three-quarters of the cases.

In Houston, every sinew is pulling in sync to get people off the streets and into housing.

Permenter used a tablet to enter Cavazos’ information into a data system about homeless people shared by the nonprofits working in Houston. She quickly saw that Cavazos’ first challenge was obtaining identification.

People living on the streets frequently have lost their driver’s licenses, birth certificates and Social Security cards, making it difficult to apply for benefits. Navigating the bureaucracy to obtain IDs is a special nightmare for people whose belongings may be in shopping carts that they can’t take on a bus or into a Social Security office, and it’s worse for those like Cavazos who lack a telephone, email and a postal address.

Permenter explained that she would help Cavazos get an ID and a verification of homelessness necessary to get housing. The police, who are often distrusted by people living on the streets, have been integrated into the system in Houston and are especially helpful in getting IDs — partly because some homeless people have arrest records, so their fingerprints can prove their identities. Police officers can also often attest that someone has been homeless.

 

Outreach workers also try to gauge whether people have a potential income source, such as disability or veteran’s benefits, and if so, offer help in applying for it. The assessment may involve trying to locate a relative who would be willing to offer a bedroom or moral support when someone may be trying to get off drugs.

A pillar of the Houston approach is housing first: the idea that people should get housing even if they are abusing drugs or alcohol. The thinking behind this is that it may be easier for someone to overcome an addiction while safe in an apartment rather than cold on a wet sidewalk and feeling a need to self-medicate.

In Houston, people are mostly placed in apartments, not temporary shelters, and they receive case management to help with jobs, benefits, behavioral health and other needs. The system works well in getting people back on their feet but is not perfect. A year after finishing a program that provided a year’s rent in an apartment, 8 percent had returned to homelessness.

A photograph of a woman with long red hair and a black sweater with a large blue H on the front. She stands in front of a dirt path among trash and other goods.
Molly Permenter, an outreach worker in Houston, was formerly homeless.

Permenter explained to Cavazos that he would soon be on the housing waiting list (in fact, she got him on the wait list within the week, after obtaining a new ID and verification of homelessness for him). She added that it would be hard to estimate a date when he would get an apartment, but that it could be a few months.

“Do your best,” Cavazos said eagerly.

One myth that bedevils policymaking about homelessness: It is all about drugs, alcohol and mental illness.

In many cases, addiction does complicate homelessness, but the principal driver of high rates of homelessness is simply not enough housing. Consider that West Virginia has a huge addiction crisis yet doesn’t have much homelessness — because someone can rent a one-bedroom apartment there for less than $500 a month.

“Homelessness is a housing problem,” according to the title of an important book published last year by Gregg Colburn and Clayton Aldern. Colburn and Aldern examined nationwide data and found that high rates of homelessness didn’t correlate with high levels of addiction, poverty or mental illness but rather two related factors: high rents and low availability of rental housing.

So why is it that many who are homeless have mental health or addiction problems? It’s mostly because when there’s a shortage of housing, there’s a scramble — and the people with the lowest incomes and the least competence at managing the system are the ones left on the street.

The metaphor commonly applied is musical chairs. In a game of musical chairs, an elderly person may not be fast enough to grab a seat — but it’s not that age prevents sitting down. The solution is simply to add a chair.

California is ground zero for homelessness because it has a shortage of perhaps 3.5 million housing units, while Oregon has many people living in tents partly because it lacks some 140,000 units.

Housing trade-offs can be uncomfortable for liberals like me. We like some of the benefits of zoning that protect our neighborhoods and prevent urban sprawl, but the last couple of decades have underscored that the downside is more expensive housing and higher rates of homelessness. I was forced to reassess how I weighed the trade-offs when a school friend, Stacy, froze to death while homeless in Oregon. I wondered: If we accepted more sprawl, would she have found cheap housing and survived?

“Houston was the antithesis of how I understood land use planning should be managed,” said Kris Larson, an urban planner who moved from Los Angeles to Houston to run Central Houston, a business association. But he added that after enduring the homelessness crisis in California, he has come to believe that there are benefits to somewhat more relaxed zoning rules that make it easier and cheaper to build.

Another challenge is that it’s often difficult to persuade landlords to rent to people who need housing most desperately. Anyone with a voucher or an eviction history finds it very hard to rent, and that’s doubly so for a person with a felony record or for a sex offender.

The resistance to vouchers is partly that the federal process is bureaucratic and may mean leaving an apartment vacant for three months without income. And owners worry that if they have tenants who appear disreputable or use drugs, the value of other units in the buildings will plummet.

(A case study of the risk: I have a friend who was homeless while wrestling with addiction, and during the pandemic he was given a voucher to rent an apartment in McMinnville, Ore. When his voucher ran out, my friend was unable to pay the rent, but he stayed anyway and began selling narcotics from the apartment. Other drug users moved in as well, and one died of an overdose there. It took months for the landlord to recover his apartment, which then required substantial renovation.)

Houston has overcome this resistance by appealing to landlords to be public-spirited and help solve an urgent city problem — and also by offering a $1,600 incentive fee per unit.

Moving people from the streets into apartments may pay for itself. The coalition says that the cost in Houston of housing and supporting someone who would otherwise be homeless is about $20,000 a year (about $13,000 in housing and $7,000 in case management). The same individual on the streets could accumulate a far higher tab with a few ambulance trips, hospital stays and jailings (people who are homeless make up a disproportionate share of people arrested — half in the case of Portland, Ore., and one-quarter in Los Angeles, one investigation found).

So advocates often cite research purporting to show that housing people is cheaper than leaving them chronically homeless. In fact, much of this research has not been rigorous, and the most careful studies offer conflicting conclusions. But my guess is still that when rehousing is as efficient and inexpensive as it is in Houston, there probably are significant savings.

“People sometimes think we’re Shangri-La and we have no homelessness,” sighed Marc Eichenbaum, the Houston city government’s point person on homelessness. “No. We still have homelessness.”

He’s right, as Amy Sullivan can attest. Sullivan, 34 years old, was seven and a half months pregnant and living in a tent when I met her in a park in Houston this fall. She told me that she had been homeless for 11 years and that she was constantly on the move and had no phone. So when she gets off the wait list, outreach workers from a group aptly named SEARCH scramble to set up appointments for her — but she invariably misses meetings, can’t be found and loses her spot on the wait list.

“No progress,” she said. “I’m at a standstill.”

Sullivan is a reminder that while homelessness is mostly driven by a lack of housing units, it’s of course more than that: Some of the people I interviewed in Houston frankly were in such a haze, from mental illness or substance use, that they didn’t know where they were. One man didn’t know what year it was. One woman was naked on the street.

There’s a serious conversation to have about whether we have made it too difficult to commit people involuntarily and get them help. My friend Stacy, who froze to death, was homeless because of mental illness and alcoholism, and it’s not obvious to me that we were respecting Stacy’s autonomy by letting her suffer and die.

Houston’s challenge ahead is that its success in recent years has come from shrewd use of federal Covid relief funds that are now running out. It’s not clear how the city will finance further rehousing.

“It is a huge problem,” said Michael C. Nichols, president of Houston’s Coalition for the Homeless.

“It’s obviously going to take public funding to keep this solved,” said Ann Stern of the Houston Endowment, a local philanthropic leader.

Advocates are talking about a bond issue or a special tax, but voters may not approve. That’s part of the policy puzzle: West Coast cities have poured funding into broken models, while Houston has developed a model that has worked well but may be unwilling to finance it with its own money.

If this were a storybook, it would end with Joe Cavazos moving into a shiny new apartment and embracing the outreach workers. In the real world, alas, it’s more complicated.

While Cavazos was on the waiting list for housing, he was arrested for threatening a man with a BB gun, according to the police and court records. He pleaded guilty and is serving a 180-day sentence — so now he has housing, but it’s a jail cell.

Helping people is always harder than it looks. It’s also true that homelessness can aggravate risks and prompt a downward spiral: It may leave a man less likely to take his medications and more inclined to brandish an air gun, all of which can make rehousing more difficult than ever.

Yet if Cavazos shows that homelessness is a tough problem, Houston shows it’s not inevitable or hopeless. We may not eliminate homelessness altogether, but if we could reduce it by 60 percent, as the city has, we would be a better nation. And one sign of the success of Houston’s approach is that others are copying it.

Dallas officials were prickly when I toured their city and asked them pointedly why Houston was doing better. But over the past two years, Dallas has copied Houston’s approach, and it’s working. The number of people living on the streets in Dallas has declined 14 percent in just the last year.

What distinguishes the cities like Houston that have made a dent in homelessness is not the audacity of their vision. Between 2003 and 2005, hundreds of cities around the country — including Dallas, New YorkPortland, Ore., and San Francisco — adopted 10-year plans to end chronic homelessness. Those 10-year plans accomplished little.

The lesson I take from Houston and Dallas is that success doesn’t come from repeating bromides about how housing is a human right; homelessness is indifferent to earnestness but does respond to hard work and meticulous execution. Houston has succeeded because it has strong political leadership that gathers data, follows evidence and herds nonprofits in the same direction. It is relentless.

Joe Cavazos may or may not get an apartment, but 30,000 Houstonians have been housed in the last dozen years, and other cities can learn from this success and make gains, too.

Nicholas Kristof joined The New York Times in 1984 and has been a columnist since 2001. He has won two Pulitzer Prizes, for his coverage of China and of the genocide in Darfur. You can follow him on InstagramFacebook and ThreadsHis forthcoming memoir is “Chasing Hope: A Reporter’s Life.”
@NickKristof

A version of this article appears in print on Nov. 26, 2023, Section SR, Page 8 of the New York edition with the headline: Houston Shows How To Tackle Homelessness.

 

Larkin Place – Misinformation vs. truth

 

MISINFORMATION

Larkin Place is for people with the most severe drug addictions and mental illnesses.

TRUTH

Larkin Place is for people who have experienced homelessness for a year or more and have a long-term disability. Disabilities are not limited to substance use disorders and serious mental health conditions; they also include physical or developmental disabilities, chronic health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, seizures, respiratory problems or arthritis, or HIV-related illnesses. Among these, chronic health conditions are the most common for people who meet these requirements in Claremont.

People with physical or behavioral health needs that exceed the scope of the onsite services available will not be candidates for Larkin Place. All residents will complete a thorough vetting process to assess their ability to live safely and independently in a community setting.

Sources: LA County HMIS Database & Jamboree Housing

MISINFORMATION

Larkin Place residents will endanger our community.

TRUTH

Assuming that people experiencing homelessness are dangerous is rooted in stigma rather than credible research. Our unhoused neighbors already live next to schools, parks, and the elderly in retirement villages. Housing these neighbors does not cause an increase in crime; it allows them to stabilize and address any illnesses or disabilities through wrap-around services tailored to meet their needs. In fact, a recent study published by UCI that aggregated crime data with affordable housing projects located in Orange County (including PSH) found that the siting of affordable housing reduces most types of crime, especially violent crime. 

Source: The Impact of Affordable Housing on Housing & Crime in OC, UCI, 2022.

MISINFORMATION

Larkin Place will decrease the property values of the surrounding community.

TRUTH

While it’s understandable that people want to protect their investments, the vast majority of studies have found that affordable housing does not depress neighboring property values and may even raise them in some cases. In the same UCI study mentioned above, researchers found that the siting of affordable housing, including PSH, did not negatively affect housing prices and in fact, surrounding communities saw modest increases in both sales prices and price per square foot.

Source: The Impact of Affordable Housing on Housing & Crime in OC, UCI, 2022.

MISINFORMATION

Residents will not be evicted for illegal activity.

TRUTH

Residents at Larkin Place will have the legal rights and responsibilities that any renter has in the State of California, and eviction may result from lease violations—including

violating the strict visitor policy, non-payment of rent, or any behaviors that threaten the safety and wellbeing of the community.        Source: Jamboree Housing

MISINFORMATION

87 residents will live at Larkin Place.

TRUTH

Larkin Place will house single adults and some couples; no household may include anyone who is not a fully vetted and eligible leaseholder. Larkin Place is not a shared- housing model, so roommates (other than couples who are married or in domestic partnerships) will not be eligible to live there. The anticipated occupancy is 37.

Source: Jamboree Housing

MISINFORMATION

Larkin Place will house criminals.

TRUTH

Thorough criminal background checks will be completed for every tenant to exclude anyone who has been convicted of a serious or violent crime, including violent felonies, sex offenses, arson, and methamphetamine production. Jamboree is required to meet the same Federal and State Fair Housing and non-discrimination law in screening its residents as any other landlord in California.

Source: Jamboree Housing

MISINFORMATION

Larkin Place excludes families and seniors.

TRUTH

Larkin Place will not exclude seniors, and residents may grow their families once they are stably housed at Larkin Place.

Source: Jamboree Housing

MISINFORMATION

Larkin Place won’t house people experiencing homelessness in Claremont.

TRUTH

Residents will be prioritized through LA County’s Coordinated Entry System (CES), which takes into account the places where people call home when determining permanent supportive housing placements. Regardless, homelessness is a regional crisis, and we need to think about this issue on a regional scale if we’re going to make meaningful change. Every city, neighborhood, and neighbor must do their part to bring our unhoused indoors and help end our homelessness crisis. Surrounding cities have done their part; last year alone, 35 people experiencing homelessness in Claremont were permanently housed in projects located in and funded by surrounding communities. Larkin Place is a first step in doing our part to be a part of the solution.

Source: SPA 3 CES Lead & LA County HMIS Database

MISINFORMATION

Jamboree Housing Corporation is an absentee developer without Claremont’s best interest in mind.

TRUTH

Jamboree is a respected, mission-driven non-profit developer with more than 30 years of experience building and operating affordable and permanent supportive housing in Southern California and across the state. Their assets are not an indictment of the agency but rather a reflection of their successful development of supportive housing in wealthier communities amidst vocal opposition. Jamboree has already been a part of the Claremont community for over a decade since its successful affordable housing development, Courier Place, was built in 2011.

Housing Claremont’s Letter to the Editor on Larkin Place

April 4, 2022

Dear Editor: 

On Thursday night, Jamboree Housing Corporation hosted a community meeting to  share plans for the new permanent supportive housing program, Larkin Place, that  will be built on the vacant lot adjacent to Larkin Park. I listened quietly trying to  identify how the Housing and Homelessness Collaborative of Claremont (Housing  Claremont) can do its best work to support the project, serve as an honest broker of  information, engage in good faith conversations about community concerns, and help  move the discourse away from “how do we stop this” and toward “how do we make  Larkin Place work for the entire community.”  

That night, I heard the frustration many community members feel about decisions  that were made without their input. I heard many questions asked in the spirit of  learning, and I heard the disappointment and hurt from some who have been made  to feel like heartless NIMBYs for expressing their concerns. I heard traumatic stories  of lives impacted by homelessness, doubt about the efficacy of the permanent  supportive housing model, conjecture about the behaviors of people who will  eventually live at Larkin Place, and fear for the safety of our schoolchildren and  seniors. It struck me that what I heard most—and from nearly every person who  spoke—is that helping people who are unhoused is a good thing. That seems like a  good place to start. 

If we can agree that having concerns about the project doesn’t mean that you oppose helping the unhoused, we might also agree that supporting Larkin Place doesn’t mean  that you don’t care about the safety of our community. Maybe we can agree that  Jamboree isn’t trying to pull one over on Claremont and stands behind its  commitment to being a good neighbor. Perhaps we can believe in their tenant vetting  process, staff to tenant ratio, and trained, professional staff. With careful planning  and engaged stakeholders, we can serve the unhoused and maintain safety. We can  engage in a community process to create accountability and safety plans that ease  our misgivings. We might even take ownership and pride in the success of Larkin  Place. 

There are some who will never be convinced that a project like this will work, and I  expect they will oppose the proposed parking easement (resulting in a less  community-oriented design) and $1.5 million city investment (resulting in less  accountability by the City for the project’s success). Both might delay the project, but  neither will derail it because the project is protected under by-right housing law—law  that was enacted to prevent neighborhood opposition to new housing that has  contributed for decades to California’s housing and homelessness crisis. 

Someone on Thursday night worried that the project’s supporters simply “hope” that  it will all work out. In fact, there is ample evidence supporting the efficacy of permanent supportive housing and Jamboree’s success delivering it. But more than that, isn’t hope a good thing? Housing Claremont hopes that the community will come together to show that successful permanent supportive housing is possible in   Claremont, and we look forward to creating opportunities to do so. 

Respectfully, 

Ilsa Lund 

Housing Claremont, Board President

Link to letter

Housing Myths & Facts

MYTH: Supportive housing is another name for drug treatment. 

FACT: Supportive housing (or Permanent Supportive Housing) is an evidence-based housing model used throughout the country that combines housing with voluntary onsite services. Tenants sign leases and have all the rights and responsibilities—including paying rent—under California law. They also have access to onsite counselors to support their long-term housing stability, which may include counseling related to managing substance use or mental health issues. Inpatient and outpatient drug treatment facilities must be licensed by the State of California and operate very differently than supportive housing.

MYTH: Home values go down and crime rates increase when homeless programs move-in. 

FACT: Research on the impact of supportive housing on neighbors and neighborhoods shows that there is a neutral to positive impact on home values and crime rates when small supportive housing developments under 50 units are located in low-concentration neighborhoods.

MYTH: Neighbors can organize to block housing for homeless people.

FACT: For decades, neighborhood opposition blocked much-needed housing in cities like Claremont, directly contributing to California’s homelessness crisis. As a result, new By-Right Housing laws now waive the public process for new 100% affordable and supportive housing.

MYTH: Homeless people are more likely to be criminals.

FACT: Research shows that people who are unhoused are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violent and serious crime; and the majority of crimes perpetrated by people who are unhoused are the result of laws that criminalize homelessness. These laws are proven to be costly, ineffective, and in some cases, unconstitutional.

MYTH: It’s not safe for children to be around homeless people. 

FACT: Unhoused people are no more likely than housed people to harm children. Research on physical and sexual abuse of children overwhelmingly proves that children are abused by adults they know. The notion that unhoused people present a greater danger to schoolchildren than anyone else is factually incorrect, stigmatizing, and harmful.

MYTH: Creating more programs only enables homelessness and attracts more homeless people. 

FACT: Research shows that homelessness is a homegrown problem and people experience homelessness in the same communities where they were once housed. People experiencing homelessness want the same things that housed people do: to live in the communities where they have family, job opportunities, and social connections.

MYTH: It’s safer to house homeless people away from families, schools, and parks. 

FACT: People who are unhoused have families, go to school, enjoy outdoor spaces, and want to contribute to their communities to make them safe, livable places.

MYTH: Homelessness is caused by mental illness and substance abuse. 

FACT: Homelessness is caused by income inequality, lack of affordable housing, and systemic racism; mental illness and substance use are symptoms of homelessness, not the cause. Housing is the solution to homelessness, and allows people to manage mental illness or substance use issues exacerbated by homelessness.

Housing Claremont’s Statement on Inclusive Housing Ordinance (ISO) Revision

Leigh Anne Jones, Chair, Planning Commission
City of Claremont, 225 Second Street, Claremont, CA 91711


Dear Commissioner Jones:

The board of Housing Claremont is an advocate for an effective revision to the City of Claremont’s Inclusive Housing Ordinance (ISO) that will have a real effect on increasing the availability of affordable housing in our city. The current ISO has been ineffective both in terms of the number of units constructed and the total lack of low income unit availability. As the staff report for item 2 makes clear on page 3, since the original 2006 ISO was enacted only 46 moderate income units have been constructed and sold in Claremont. That’s an average of only 3 moderate income units per year. No low income units have been sold in this period. These results fall extremely short of the pressing need for housing in our city. The 2021-29 Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) for Claremont indicates the state has assessed 1,163 units to be planned at moderate income or below. That’s nearly 150 units per year for the next eight years. The evidence is clear: we need an ISO that will meet the dire need for affordable housing.

The staff advocates keeping the ISO rate at 15% of new projects, because above this level the state Housing and Community Development (HCD) can review city ISOs. The staff report states that this “can potentially extend and complicate the approval process” for the city’s current RHNA assessment. However, we think this should not preclude some exploration of an increased ratio and a tiered approach to affordability. For example, the city of Pasadena’s ISO is 20% of newly constructed rental units, and offers three levels of affordability: 5% of units set aside for those 50% of area median income (AMI), 5% for 80% AMI, and 10% for 120% of AMI. This approach is more inclusive and makes a larger impact on the overall availability of affordable units.

The staff proposes changing the current ISO in two main ways: shifting rental ISO requirements for housing projects from “moderate” to “low” income renters; and creating a new income category for affordable for-sale units. We agree with the staff recommendation to shift income requirements down for renters. The proposed for-sale unit “low or moderate” category would make city-designated affordable units available for purchase to anyone making 120% of our area’s median income. For a family of four in Los Angeles County, this would mean an annual income as high as $92,760 would qualify. For an income 110% of average, that would

mean qualifying for buying a three-bedroom townhome at a price of $331,700, which is $298,300 below the market price of $600,000 (see Attachment E, Table 2). While this example illustrates the terrible scale of the housing shortage and the extreme price of housing in the city, it also suggests that the new income category proposed will likely create little opportunity for those earning below median income to buy housing in Claremont.

We encourage the Planning Commission to explore ways in which Additional Dwelling Units (ADU) can be incorporated into the city’s revised ISO. Currently ADUs added to a new housing development are “deemed affordable” for purposes of the RHNA. However, there is no income requirement for renting these units and no guarantee that they will even be rented. ADUs can easily be integrated into new home construction, either within floorplans or as detached structures, and if the ISO applied to ADUs it would mean that a percentage could be offered at affordable rates. We believe ADUs represent an excellent opportunity for increasing the stock of affordable housing in areas of Claremont that are traditionally dominated by expensive single family housing.

 We hope to be a part of the conversation as the new ISO design works through your Commission and on to the City Council, so please do reach out with your own thoughts and ideas.

Sincerely,
Zachary Courser
President, Housing Claremont

Housing Claremont’s Statement on Affordable Housing in Village South

Dear Friends,

The Board of Housing Claremont is advocating for affordable housing to be a priority in the Village South development. As an organization, we are particularly focused on Village South because it has most of the elements that make it ideal for the inclusion of affordable housing: as a transit-oriented development it has ample transportation connections to serve the needs of low-income families; its proximity to shopping, education, and employment opportunities likewise makes it very suitable for affordable housing; and its scale and density also allows for many more affordable units than low-density housing developments could.

Therefore, we are disappointed to see that affordable housing was not made a priority in Village South. Please find attached a letter we sent to the City Council asking that they demonstrate leadership on this issue, live up to our city’s values of sustainability and inclusion, and meet the demands of the housing crisis by making affordable housing a priority in the Village South.

If you agree, please consider adding your voice during the public comment period during the Tuesday, June 22nd council meeting that begins at 6:30p. You may attend via Zoom at this link: https://zoom.us/j/256208090. You can also email your comments to the city clerk, Shelley Desautels, at sdesautels@ci.claremont.ca.us.

Thank you for your support of housing in Claremont and for your consideration of this important issue.

Sincerely,

Zach Courser
President, Housing Claremont

Housing Claremont’s Statement on Village South

Leigh Anne Jones, Chair
Planning Commission
City of Claremont
225 Second Street
Claremont, CA 91711

Dear Commissioner Jones:

Housing Claremont has been a consistent advocate for alleviating housing shortages for low and very low-income residents in our community. The Village  South development presents a rare opportunity for the city to make significant progress in doing just this. The scale of the project allows for the inclusion of a  significant number of affordable housing units, which could help meet the city’s state-mandated obligations for developing low-income housing. Therefore, we are disappointed to see that affordable housing has not made a priority in this development. While other community development values, such as historic preservation, have been well-attended in the final environmental impact study (FEIR), we find no specific or explicit reference to affordable housing being a project objective. The city contends that this development will contribute generally to meeting its 2020 Regional Housing Needs Assessment, and that its current inclusive housing ordinance is sufficient to meet affordable housing needs. We disagree. The current market is very unlikely to meet the housing needs of low income families, and the city should be making an effort beyond current policy to meet this critical need. Affordable housing should be an objective of this project, and we ask the Planning Commission to explore ways in which the city can commit to this goal.

We are particularly focused on the Village South development because it has most of the elements that make it ideal for the inclusion of affordable housing. As a transit-oriented development, it has ample transportation connections to serve the needs of low-income families. Its proximity to shopping, education, and employment opportunities likewise makes it very suitable for affordable housing. Its scale and density also allow for many more affordable units than low-density housing developments could.

We have been a consistent advocate for affordable housing in the Village South development, but we do not see it as a project objective in the FEIR. In our February 2020 letter to then-Mayor Larry Schroeder, we asked that in the “Village South Environmental Impact Report, the city should keep foremost in their deliberations how this particular site can be a key to meeting our obligations for building low and very low income housing.” In May 2020 we built a coalition with Sustainable Claremont and Inclusive Claremont to advocate for Village South Specific Plan to contain sufficient scale and density to allow for a more sustainable development. Our particular concern in doing so, of course, was making inclusion of affordable housing a project objective. We were gratified to see the outpouring of community support for our petition, and the City Council voting unanimously in favor of sufficient density. However, we are disappointed that the current FEIR doesn’t rise above current policy in making affordable housing a project objective.

We feel there is still time to make affordable housing a priority in Village South, and that failing to do so would be missing a rare opportunity. Few projects like Village South, which has nearly all the elements necessary to support affordable housing, are possible in the city. Simply doing the minimum isn’t doing enough. We ask that Commissioners explore concrete ways in which the city can live up to its values of sustainability and inclusion by making affordable housing an objective of the Village South development.

Sincerely,
Zachary Courser
President, Housing Claremont