SLO County allocates $2.5 million for affordable housing, homeless programs

Programs to help prevent homelessness and supply more affordable housing in San Luis Obispo County will receive $2.5 million in funding this year.

The money will come mostly in the form of grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development but the county will also spend $180,000 from the general fund.

“Homelessness is like a trapdoor,” Supervisor Bruce Gibson said. “Once that trapdoor opens and you fall into homelessness, it is very difficult to get back in.”

County supervisors unanimously approved spending the money at a hearing Tuesday. They agreed that the lack of affordable housing units is a serious problem in the county.

“This county treats its homeless animals better than its homeless people,” Supervisor Adam Hill said, noting that the county has approved the construction of a new animal shelter at a cost of $10 to $14 million.

The money came from three federal programs. The bulk of it — more than $1.6 million — came from Community Development Block Grants, which fund a variety of programs to help people with low- to moderate-incomes avoid homelessness. The money will be distributed to the county and cities in the county. The county will get the largest chunk at $791,782.

The money will fund a variety of efforts, including a minor home repair program in Pismo Beach, a program to help disadvantaged homeowners in Los Osos to hook up to the new sewer system and a project to install curb ramps in San Luis Obispo.

The money will also help fund three affordable housing projects in the county: Rolling Hills Apartments in Templeton, Iron Works Apartments in San Luis Obispo and Los Robles Terrace senior housing project in Paso Robles.

The HOME Investment Partnership Program provided $678,918. The HOME funding allows communities to partner with local nonprofit organizations, such as the 5 Cities Homeless Coalition, to help pay for affordable housing projects.

“It is my belief that nonprofits provide services that the government cannot and they do it economically and efficiently,” said Jim Patterson, a former county supervisor and activist on homelessness issues.

The third program is the Emergency Solutions Grant Program, which provided $148,000. That program assists people who are homeless or at great risk of becoming homeless with services such as emergency shelter and rehousing. Shelters that will get funding from this program include the Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter and Prado Day Center in San Luis Obispo and the ECHO homeless shelter in Atascadero.

The county Planning Department did public outreach prior to the adoption of the county’s 2016 action plan on homelessnes. The public agrees that the lack affordable housing is the main cause for homelessness, said Matt Leal, a county planner.

“It was identified that housing advocates must work together to maximize the use of limited federal dollars to achieve the maximum number of affordable housing opportunities in the county,” Leal said in a staff report.