On Feb. 4, I joined my colleagues on the Board of Supervisors in voting to approve $2.6 million in loans from the County Fund for Housing to support the construction of 135 new housing units. $1.5 million of those loans will fund the construction of affordable housing in the Fourth District — 41 multi-family units at the Mill District. These one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments and townhomes will provide critically needed affordable housing in downtown Healdsburg.
The units will be available for families earning up to 80% of the Area Median Income, or $60,500 for an individual or $86,400 for a family of four, based on current numbers. I’m especially pleased that the developer for these units, Eden Housing, has also committed to setting seven units aside for Reach for Home, a local nonprofit providing services to individuals coming out of homelessness.
This is a huge step in the right direction as we continue to struggle with our regional homelessness crisis and improving access to our continuum of care. We’re now deep into the process of finding more land for shelter space and more transitional housing. During the 2019 Point in Time homelessness count, 89% of those surveyed said they wanted to live in permanent housing. Homelessness is a complex issue, but a lack of affordable housing is a key challenge for us to address. The continuum of care that we are working to provide our homeless community includes drug and mental health treatment programs, access to medical care and a whole range of healthcare and social support systems. We must also fight to improve the underlying housing crisis that pushes so many in our community to the brink.
Last summer, I led efforts with the board to provide the Windsor Veterans Village $1.2 million in funding (in addition to a previous commitment of $750,000) to help build out the 60 one- and two-bedroom units set aside for veterans making between 30 and 50% of the Area Median Income. In Sonoma County, currently that means a single person earning between $22,000 and $38,000, annually, or a family of four with a household income of between $32,000 and $54,000.
Veterans remain a vulnerable population nationwide and in Sonoma County where they made up 7%, or more than 200, of the homeless population in the 2019 Point in Time homelessness count. Based on data from the US Department of Veterans Affairs, the suicide rate for veterans nationwide is 1.5 times higher than that for non-veterans. A Veterans Health Administration report from 2017 acknowledged that homelessness was a factor in the higher suicide rate among veterans.
For me it’s not just about numbers, it’s about taking care of the people who served our country, since they’ve already given so much taking care of us.
The affordable housing at the Windsor Veterans Village and at the Mill District in Healdsburg are two outstanding examples of how we can leverage public and private funding to create the housing that we need so badly in Sonoma County. I pledge to support more of these kinds of opportunities to create affordable housing throughout our community.
James Gore is the County Supervisor for Sonoma County’s Fourth District.