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How the County of Sonoma shares housing

By: Irene Hilsendager
January 24, 2020

Shared Homes is common in many communities and helps people experiencing homelessness transition into permanent housing. Shared homes are multi-unit residential properties that provide shared living housing. Shared homes are now a part of the county’s plan to grasp and address homelessness.

In Jan. 2020, the Board of Supervisors approved the purchase of real property on Sonoma Ave. in Santa Rosa and 8190, 8192 and 8194 Arthur St. in Cotati to be used as Shared Living Houses.

Persons or groups who have an interest and are willing to participate in the shared living housing program will work with case managers for placements in the shared homes. The main goal of participation in the shared homes is to increase living skills to improve housing retention, identify and reduce barriers to housing and increase income from benefits and employments.

The county is committed to providing the level of supportive services needed to ensure the success of this endeavor. It also considers the individuals who will reside in the home as county residents and part of the community.

So, then you ask yourself, why is the county buying homes to help the homeless crisis? The county is buying homes that will be used as Shared Housing to help people experiencing homelessness transition into permanent housing. Shared Homes will provide a stable environment with services tailed to each individual, to support their successful transition into their new homes and call it permanent supportive housing. Data shows that 95 percent of individuals will remain in housing after one year when they receive permanent supportive housing.

How can the county justify paying for these homes? The county is said to prioritize funding for these homes because of the dire need to house vulnerable people experiencing homelessness. Research has shown that public costs incur by those experiencing extended homelessness are often significantly higher than the coast of providing individuals with a path toward housing and support service. In addition, the cost to buy these homes is a one-time expense. Soon the homes will be assets as well as additions to the system of care and available to house vulnerable people for years into the next century.

How is the county affording these homes? The moneys used to purchase properties are provided from a State of California grant program called “No Place Like Home.”

The rent structure of the homes will be one third of each participants monthly income. Rents collected will be used to offset costs of ongoing maintenance at the property. In addition to gaining of this property and closing costs, the estimation is the rental income stream will not be enough to cover all repair, maintenance and overall property management costs. So, an additional $35,000 per year per property in costs in expected. Five years of property management costs totaling $525,000 and $50,000 for improvements each of $150,000 overall are placed in reserved for future costs. Since these are ongoing costs it will be financed with current fund balance and be reimbursed with funding from the “No Place Like Home grant.”

Certain individuals experiencing homelessness are thoroughly assessed and carefully matched with the right housing solutions.

The house in Santa Rosa has two bedrooms, two cottages and a large detached garage. The property on Arthur St. is a multi-unit containing a two-bedroom, two-bathroom cottage and a duplex containing two units each with two bedrooms and one bathroom, each room will be occupied by an individual or a couple.

The county will hire a property manager to oversee activities like rent collection, maintenance and enforce all lease agreements. Lease agreements for shared home usually establish rules such as noise restrictions and visitors policies and reiterate laws such as no smoking on the property or any other illegal activities. Violating any rules in the lease could result in the termination a lease.

There will be benefits for the residents from a daily case management services to support the transitioning to being house. This will include employment and benefit counseling as well as many other individually tailored services.

What if the purchased properties have current occupants? How should the county elect to exercise its right as the property owner to relocate such occupants; the county will abide by all applicable laws and requirement. If this means moving assistance, help with finding a new unit and financial support to cover any increase in renting their new home, the county will abide.

Since the Jan. 14 Cotati City Council meeting, it seems a few residents were not happy and not sure if the council had really addressed this project to their liking. 

There are over 60 homes, apartments and shelters located throughout Sonoma County. They are in every city and Sonoma County Housing Authority has 54 clients living in shared housing and Santa Rosa has 67 clients actively leased in shared housing.