Local initiative calls on landlords to help combat homelessness

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Housing experts say the state’s homelessness crisis stems from a lack of housing, leaving thousands of residents on the streets to fend for themselves. Homelessness jumped nearly 20 percent in Kern County since last year, so local housing groups are tackling the issue head-on. The income property association partnered with the Housing Outreach Partnership to hold the third annual California Landlord’s Summit on Homelessness.

The event calls on landlords to house homelessness tenants, on the condition that they use 30 percent of their income to pay rent. The Income Property Association provides stipends for each landlord that participates in the program, and offers additional funds to fix any damages that their properties may incur. But that’s uncommon according to event organizers, who say their programs have had a success rate of 90 percent.

“The numbers do show that it’s not necessarily more risky to have someone with a voucher versus without a voucher,” said Sunny Advani, the owner of Synergy Real Estate. “And they do show us that they are appreciative of us working with them.”

Tenants apply for a housing voucher under this program and get paired with landlords who have available units. This program changed the life of Raven Ducar, who was homeless for nearly a year before finding out about this program. And it doesn’t allow just anyone to participate.

“It was through invitation,” she said. “It seemed like it was too good to be true after they told me how many invitations they sent out for this program and only so many few of us showed up.”

Data shows that homelessness is exorbitantly expensive for state and local communities, especially during the pandemic. Keeping residents off the streets cuts down on the costs of healthcare and other social services. Homeless people are also more susceptible to COVID-19. Homeless people with the coronavirus are roughly twice as likely to die from complications. This program also provides benefits to help formerly homeless tenants get back on their feet.

“If I was to have a situation with finances like that they would provide me with rent assistance, and they also would provide me with food assistance as well as bill assistance,” said Ducar.

The program is funded by money given under the CARE Act. The Housing Outreach Partnership said the program helped state agencies save over $2.5 million by housing just 94 people last year. Organizers hope this initiative will pave the way for California to seek more long-term solutions.

Greg Terzakis: “Until we as a state regardless of party regardless of geography decide that we’re going to build more units– this problem is not going to get better,” said Greg Terzakis, the Senior VP for the Central Valley region of the California Apartment Association.

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