Gov. Brown Moves To Tackle Housing Challenges

 

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Governor Jerry Brown makes a significant commitment to tackling California’s housing challenges in his May Revision of the 2016-17 California State Budget.

NAMI California has long recognized that individuals with mental illness are severely impacted by the shortage of affordable and supportive housing in the state and that our constituents face unique barriers accessing appropriate housing. Over 40 percent of individuals who are homeless live with a mental illness, and many more individuals and families impacted by mental illness live on the edge of homelessness due to our weak mental health safety net. We also know that housing is a significant determinant of mental health and wellness.

In January, the Governor recognized the difficulty California faces in siting housing and treatment facilities that provide services to those who were previously incarcerated, including those living with mental illness. In an effort to encourage local governments to site these facilities, the Governor included $25 million for an incentive grant program. The May Revision further specifies the components of this program, now called the “Community-Based Transitional Housing Program”:

  • The grant program would provide additional funds to local communities that site, for a minimum for 10 years, new transitional housing and supportive services for offenders released from state prison or county jail.
  • The grant program would require that a portion of the funds be used by the city or county to increase public safety around the facility and improve communication with neighbors.
  • The grant program would require funding to be shared with nonprofit facility operators to support rehabilitative services, security, and community outreach.
  • The grant program would contain a competitive application process with, among other aspects, would prioritize cities and counties that leverage or provide other funding for the facility.

The Governor also proposes to address the significant siting concerns through legislation under which a local government could not require a conditional use permit, planned unit development permit, or other discretionary local government review or approval for qualifying developments that include affordable housing, providing they are consistent with objective general plan and zoning standards, as well as environmental measures if necessary.

Lastly, the Governor proposes funding the Senate Pro Tem’s Proposition 63 housing measure (the “No Place Like Home” initiative) over seven years, with first year funding of $267 million from bond proceeds. The funds would support permanent supportive housing, rental subsidies, and technical assistance to counties.

NAMI California recognizes the tremendous need for additional supportive housing for individuals living with serious mental illness and has released Behavioral Health Housing Principles with the County Behavioral Health Directors Association.

As the Governor and the Legislature structure this new initiative, we encourage continued involvement of mental health consumers and family members. We also urge policymakers to ensure the program conforms to the voter-approved mandate of the Mental Health Services Act and that housing is provided to those living with serious mental illness.

NAMI California also urges the Governor to fund the Medi-Cal Housing program proposed by the Legislature, which would complete the initiatives envisioned in California’s §1115 Waiver and would offer truly comprehensive services to those individuals in our health care system with the most complex needs.