Redevelopment Agencies Dissolved: What happens next?

Doug Shoemaker, Mercy Housing California President

Greetings!

We are at a defining moment at Mercy Housing and for the people that we serve. It’s hard to imagine a period in recent history that has put as much stress on the most vulnerable in our communities as the last few years. While these trends seem to exist in nearly every state, California is sadly at the head of the pack in all too many ways. On top of record unemployment and housing instability is a gruesome list of cuts to education, child care, adult day health centers and other critical services that make life manageable for lower income families, seniors, and the disabled.

Compounding these very personal pressures is the terrifying sense that our broader society is prepared to permanently unwind a significant amount of the public support for one of the most critical tools we have for combating poverty-affordable housing.

Just before the New Year, the California Supreme Court upheld legislation which eliminates all of the redevelopment agencies in the state on February 1, 2012. Until the ruling, redevelopment agencies have been required to spend 20% of their revenue on the creation and preservation of affordable homes for low and moderate income households. These agencies provided nearly $1 billion per year for affordable housing-money that has been critical to Mercy’s work in nearly every community that we serve.

With this backdrop, you can imagine how motivated we are at Mercy Housing to address this issue. Our staff and partners are working furiously to ensure that the developments in progress will be able to hold on to their funding commitments once these agencies are dissolved. We have every reason to believe that these short-term efforts will be successful, but the long-term implications of this funding cut are a serious threat to our mission.

With so much at stake, your support could not be more important than it is right now. Because of your financial generosity and commitment to our work, new homes are being built and our resident service programs continue to have a positive impact in the lives of our residents and the surrounding communities. Ironically, our development pipeline has never been busier-7 developments are ready to begin in construction in 2012 that will eventually provide 440 new homes.

Support continues to come from community partners, a variety of foundation and corporate funders, as well as individual donors and volunteers. I hope that we will be able to continue to count on your support in 2012 and invite you to reach out to me with your ideas or to suggest how you might like to get more involved.  Here are some examples of the progress made towards bettering the lives of low income Californian’s in 2011:

Two new affordable housing developments are now underway and three new properties opened which are now serving low and very-low-income families and individuals with special needs. These new developments and properties include:

  • Affordable and Supportive Housing: 7th & H housing development, 150 units, Sacramento, CA – (in construction)
  • Family and Supportive Housing: Caroline Severance Manor development, 85 units, Los Angeles, CA – (in construction)
  • Family Housing: Westbrook Family Plaza, 49 units, San Francisco, CA – (now home to 158 residents)
  • Family Housing: Gleason Park Apartments, 93 units, Stockton, CA – (now home to 302 residents)
  • Supportive Housing: Boulevard Court Apartments, 75 units, Sacramento, CA – (now home to 72 residents)

Because we have such a busy development pipeline, Mercy Housing may not feel the worst impacts of the redevelopment housing cuts for a few years. While this is good news for now, I believe everyone at Mercy Housing is aware of how present the danger to our work really is. We are engaged on a nearly daily basis with other developers and statewide advocacy organizations to educate the Governor’s office and Legislature about the impact of these cuts and potential solutions.

We have to believe that we will get there, but it’s hard to predict when this will be possible and how much we as a society are prepared in invest in this work. As the issue continues to unfold, we’ll update you in occasional letters, electronic newsletters and on our website. We look forward to your support as we collectively commit ourselves to the next step in this struggle.

If you have questions or thoughts, please feel free to contact me at dshoemaker@mercyhousing.org or (415) 355-7147. Thank you so much for all that you do.

Sincerely,

Doug Shoemaker

President, Mercy Housing California

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