City of Santa Monica
California

Staff Report
3479

Preserving Our Diversity (POD) Expansion to a second phase Pilot 2 program

Information

Department:Housing Division, Housing and Economic DevelopmentSponsors:
Category:08. Administrative Item

Recommended Action

Recommended Action

Staff recommends that the City Council adopt the attached Preserving Our Diversity (POD) Program Pilot 2 Policies and Procedures Manual.

 

Staff Report Body

Summary

Many long-term Santa Monica seniors living on fixed incomes are at risk of displacement due to their inability to afford basic needs such as rent, utilities, food, and healthcare.  The Preserving Our Diversity (POD) pilot program was launched to help seniors live with dignity by meeting their basic needs, in order to preserve the affordability of existing housing resources and sustain Santa Monica’s economic diversity by helping low-income seniors remain in the communityThis innovative approach to preventing displacement and homelessness advances the Council’s Framework Priority of Affordability.

 

Expansion of POD from the original pilot (Pilot 1) to a second phase (Pilot 2) was included in the Council-approved Housing Trust Fund Initial Plan and adopted in the FY 2019-20 budgetTo implement and administer the Pilot 2 program, staff recommends approval of the Preserving Our Diversity (POD) Program Pilot 2 Policies and Procedures Manual (Attachment A) including detailed policies regarding application processing, eligibility review, assistance levels, and periodic recertification.

 

Discussion

 

Pilot 1

On July 25, 2017, Council approved the Preserving Our Diversity (POD) pilot program (Pilot 1), a 14-month program with three program components: cash-based financial assistance; benefits assessment and enrollment; and care management. The amount of cash-based assistance was determined by comparing a household’s income after paying rent to the amount needed by a typical one- or two-person senior household to meet its basic needs.  The basic needs amount is assessed using the POD After-Rent Income Standard, which is derived from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Elder Index Basic Needs Budget.  Pilot 1 was based on the 2013 UCLA assessment and the proposed expansion (Pilot 2) would use the most-recent 2015 version, with local adjustments to utilities and transportation budgets.  The POD After-Rent Income Standard for the proposed Pilot 2 equals $747 for a 1-person household and $1,306 for a 2-person household.  The components of the After-Rent Income Standards for Pilot 1 and Pilot 2 are provided in Attachment B.

 

 

Sample Household

1-Person Household

2-Person Household

Monthly Income

$1,400

$2,000

Rent

$957

$957

After Rent Income

$443

$1,043

 

 

 

POD After-Rent Income Standard
(Amount Needed After Rent for Necessities)

$747

$1,306

Monthly POD Allowance
(After Rent Income – POD After-Rent Income Standard)

$304

$263

 

Pilot 1 began providing direct assistance in November 2017 and concluded in January 2019. During the 14-month period, 22 participants were enrolled. At the conclusion of Pilot 1, 17 participants remained enrolled and 5 participants exited the program. Three participants remain housed in the City and are now assisted through voucher programs, one participant moved to another city, and one participant passed away.  The 17 remaining Pilot 1 participants have continued to receive cash-based assistance during the development of Pilot 2 and are proposed to be rolled into Pilot 2, continuing to receive cash-based assistance so long as the household remains qualified per the Pilot 1 guidelines. 

Pilot 2

On July 24, 2018, Council approved the Housing Trust Fund Initial Plan, which included expansion of POD Pilot 1 from a $300,000 one-time budget, resulting in the enrollment of 22 participants at an annualized assistance cost of $127,128, to an expanded program with an annual assistance budget of $2 million. On December 20, 2018, the Housing Commission discussed Pilot 2 program design and on January 17, 2019, prepared Pilot 2 program design recommendations to City Council (Attachment C). On June 25, 2019, Council approved the FY 2019-20 Budget which included budget appropriations of $2,000,000 in Housing Trust funds for cash-based financial assistance, as well as a limited-term Housing Specialist position and as-needed Staff Assistant hours to administer the program. Staff will inform program participants in writing when admitted to the program that the POD assistance is subject to annual budget appropriations by City Council.

The only change proposed to the POD program threshold eligibility requirement (for Pilot 2) is to increase the minimum eligible age from 62 to 65.  The proposed change is recommended by the Housing Commission to maximize program participation and funding, while aligning with the assumptions of the UCLA Elder Index Basic Needs Budget and federal entitlement programs, primarily Medicare. As explained later in the report, a key recommendation of the Housing Commission involves allocating the $2 million POD assistance budget among three groups of participating households. Additionally, POD Pilot 2 would benefit from a detailed set of policies and procedures to facilitate systematic administration of the expanded program. A comparison of key program design elements of Pilot 1 and Pilot 2 is provided in Attachment D.

Pilot 2 Goals

The goals of Pilot 1 were to:

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

2.     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;

3.     Provide an opportunity for the City to gauge the effectiveness of POD as an affordable housing preservation and anti-displacement strategy and model; and

4.     Identify key issues to address in conjunction with considering any program expansion.

For Pilot 2, staff recommends adding the following goal:

5.     Provide a balanced approach to serving a diversity of households while serving high-need households.

The proposed goal would be implemented through an allocation formula designed to target households with a wide range of financial need, allowing the program to serve more households than would be served if only households with the highest financial need were served. To create a balanced approach, the Housing Commission recommends that Pilot 2 distribute cash-based assistance across three applicant groups of varying financial need. The following table provides recommended percentages of budget allocation for cash-based assistance for one-person and two-person households. The proposed budget allocation mirrors the distribution of Pilot 1’s assistance levels (see Attachment E).

Pilot 2 Assistance Distribution

The Housing Commission recommends Pilot 2 serve households that need monthly cash-based assistance of $700 or less per one-person household and its equivalent of $1,225 or less per two-person household. Furthermore, staff recommends that the amount of cash-based assistance for Pilot 2 be capped at this time at the two-person standard for any size household.

 

Proposed Pilot 2 Cash-Based Assistance Distribution

Group

% of POD Budget

1-Person Household

2-Person Household

Monthly Assist. Max.

Monthly Assist. Range

Annual Max

Monthly
Assist.
Max.

Monthly Assist. Range

Annual Max

1

35%

$250

$1-250

$3,000

$438

$1-438

$5,256

2

50%

$500

$251-500

$6,000

$875

$439-875

$10,500

3

15%

$700

$501-700

$8,400

$1,225

$876-1,225

$14,700

 

Based on the allocations above, staff estimates the program could serve from 248 (if all 2-person) to 436 (if all 1-person) households. The actual number of households served will depend on the proportion of one-person and two-person households, as well as the amount of assistance needed within the ‘monthly assistance range’ by each household.  The Housing Commission recommends that if any of the three groups are undersubscribed, Council should grant staff authority to work with the Housing Commission to adjust the budget allocations among the groups within the current assistance ranges.  If that situation occurs, staff further recommends that an Information Item would be prepared for Council and the public explaining any adjustments made to the allocations.

Policies and Procedures Manual

Operations for Pilot 1 were governed by the eight-page Program Model and Guidelines (Attachment F). Transitioning the POD program from Pilot 1 serving 22 households to Pilot 2 serving hundreds of households would enlarge the program significantly. Due to the magnitude of expansion and to properly steward Housing Trust Funds, staff recommends that City Council approve the attached Policies and Procedures Manual (Manual) for Pilot 2.

The Manual provides an overview of Pilot 2 design, while specifying the priorities, policies, and procedures for program administration, including fair housing and equal opportunity, improving access for persons with limited English proficiency, applications, wait-list selection, eligibility review and approval, assistance determinations, periodic recertifications, and termination.  The Manual was modeled after the Council-approved Housing Authority Administrative Plan but streamlined for flexibility. Note that the proposed Manual reflects a protocol of conducting eligibility recertifications every five years, consistent with Housing Commission recommendations.

The proposed Manual currently anticipates recalculating the POD assistance when a household reports that their income has increased/decreased by more than $200 per month, or a household’s rent has increased by more than $100.  However, annual reexamination of a household’s income and recalculation of assistance is not recommended at this time, as it is labor-intensive and additional staffing would be needed to implement annual reexaminations and recalculations.  Furthermore, anticipating annual increases within the $2,000,000 budget would mean setting aside a portion of the budget to accommodate the increases, effectively reducing the number of households that could be assisted by the POD program. Finally, staff would not have a reliable way to estimate the amount of budget needed for future individualized annual increases.  Therefore, budgeting for annual increases would need to be open-ended.

One lesson learned from the implementation of Pilot 1 is that households participating in the CalFresh program (formerly known as ‘food stamps’) have their benefit reduced as a result of receiving POD assistance (although the reduction is less than the amount of POD assistance).  Unfortunately, increasing POD assistance in response to a reduced CalFresh benefit would generate another round of further CalFresh benefit reduction. Staff is currently working with legislative advocates to rectify this unintended result of POD assistance.

 

Program Implementation

Expanding the POD program to several hundred participants will involve outreach, waitlist administration, application processing, eligibility determination, and coordination with participants.  Implementation is proposed to occur incrementally, with a goal of completing program enrollment over a one-year period.

 

The Housing Commission recommended that staff present to Council the estimated cost of completing the expanded program enrollment within a shorter timeline of six months.  Upon further assessment, staff believes such a scenario is not feasible, due to the complexities experienced with the small Pilot 1 program group of participants, experience with program outreach and marketing, waitlist administration, and eligibility review, as well as the timing practicality associated with staff recruitment and training. Staff recognizes the sense of urgency and proposes to launch the program and enroll participants as soon as possible.

 

 

As part of the FY 2019-2020 budget adoption on June 25, 2019, Council discussed expanding the POD program to provide one-time assistance to residents of rent-controlled apartments encountering sudden and substantial allowed rent increases., which may occur when property owners have not adjusted rents annually based on maximum allowable rents established by the Rent Control Board and then decide to charge the maximum rent allowed.  Given that the POD program is designed to provide on-going assistance to seniors and that the one-time assistance is likely better served via a different assistance model, Council directed staff to explore the relevant issues and return to Council with recommendations.  Pursuant to Council’s direction, staff from Community and Cultural Services and Housing and Economic Development have begun to evaluate whether City Flex Funds, County Rapid Rehousing funds, or other existing programs could address the need.  Staff is also assessing available data to determine the frequency of the occurrence, the projected necessary amount of assistance, and other factors that may influence how the community need could be addressed.  If such assistance is eligible under existing programs and funds are available to address the projected need, staff will inform the Council, community partners, and associated agencies (including the Rent Control Board) of the ability of existing programs to address the need.  If such assistance is not eligible under existing programs, or sufficient funding is not available to address the projected need, staff will return to Council with recommendations.  If necessary, Council could choose to allocate a portion of the budgeted POD funding to address the need.  In the meantime, staff recommends that Council approve the POD program guidelines, as it is expected to take at least one year to implement the expanded program.

 

Past Council Actions

Meeting Date

Description

July 25, 2017

City Council approved Pilot 1 Program Model and Guidelines

July 24, 2018

City Council approved the annual allocation of $2 million in Housing Trust Funds for POD as a part of the 2013-2021 Housing Trust Fund Plan

June 24, 2019

City Council approved FY 2019-20 Budget

 

Financial Impacts and Budget Actions

The Preserving Our Diversity (POD) Program Pilot 2 will cost $2,157,306 for one year, with $2,000,000 allocated to cash-based assistance and $157,306 allocated to administration. Funds for the program were included in the FY 2019-20 budget in the Housing and Economic Development Department. Budget authority for subsequent budget years will be requested in each budget for Council approval. Future-year funding is contingent on Council budget approval.

Meeting History

Aug 13, 2019 5:30 PM  City Council Regular Meeting
draft Draft