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City Council Approves $2 Million Expansion of Program to Keep Santa Monicans Housed

The Preserving Our Diversity program now serving 21 will expand to 250 – 400 participants

August 14, 2019 10:32 AM

City Council Approves $2 Million Expansion of Program to Keep Santa Monicans Housed

SANTA MONICA, Calif. – Two years after the Santa Monica City Council approved the Preserving Our Diversity (POD) pilot in July 2017, the cash assistance program for seniors will expand to help a broader array of vulnerable Santa Monicans meet their basic needs. Council’s vote last night approved the policies and procedures manual that sets forth the programmatic requirements to provide $2 million directly to a cohort of between 248 and 436 Santa Monicans. Funding for the program was approved through the FY 2019 – 2020 budgeting process with funds coming from the Housing Trust Fund. The application period is anticipated to open in early winter with participants being enrolled on a rolling basis throughout 2020.

"The Preserving Our Diversity Program maintains the dignity of our seniors who quietly struggle with rent, food, and housing insecurity," said Mayor Gleam Davis. "By adding hundreds of long-time senior residents to the program, we will make a dent in the affordability crisis that often requires seniors to choose between paying rent or medical bills and even raises the specter of homelessness."

The goals of POD are to:

  • Support very low-income senior residents in rent-controlled housing to avoid residential displacement using a cost-effective approach to income subsidies; 

  • Assist some of the City’s lowest-income and longest-term residents to live with greater dignity by helping them meet their basic needs, such as rent, food, medical care, and transportation, and by facilitating access to mainstream goods and services;
  • Provide an opportunity for the City to gauge the effectiveness of POD as an affordable housing preservation and anti-displacement strategy and model; and 

  • Identify key issues to address in conjunction with considering any program expansion.
  • Provide a balanced approach to serving a diversity of households while serving high-need households.

The program will provide assistance to residents who are 65 or older across three groups of varying financial need:

The basic needs amount is assessed using the POD After-Rent Income Standard, which is derived from the University of California, Los Angeles Elder Index Basic Needs Budget.

Through the recent budgeting process, Council asked staff to explore expanding POD beyond the focus on seniors to provide one-time assistance to residents who experience substantial allowed rent increases in rent-controlled properties. City staff are determining if existing city programs address the needs identified by Council and are assessing the demand.

As part of its vote, City Council asked that the Housing Commission review the pilot as it progresses. This innovative approach to preventing displacement and homelessness advances the Council’s Framework Priority of Affordability.

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