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New California Bond Program Promotes Affordability for Middle-Income Renters

The California Statewide Communities Development Authority hopes that a new program, which helps cities purchase rental properties with no upfront cost, will lead to an increase in affordable middle-income housing.
December 16, 2020, 9am PST | Diana Ionescu | @aworkoffiction
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California's Statewide Communities Development Authority (CSCDA) is launching a new bond program aimed at making housing affordable for middle-income residents.

Through its current initiatives, the CSCDA issues bonds that help cities pay for new housing development projects that include affordable units for low-income renters. But many moderate-income renters fall through the cracks when it comes to housing assistance, says CSCDA managing director Jon Penkower. Those who earn too much to qualify for subsidized housing but not enough to afford market rates, he says, "can’t get tax credits, there’s no federal subsidy, no state subsidy, no local money — there’s nothing." The new Workforce Housing Program addresses the needs of this "missing middle" by issuing tax-exempt bonds to cities for the purchase of rental properties that can be repaid in 30 years.

The program lets the authority buy existing market-rate buildings at no upfront cost to the city and work with the local government to set rents that are affordable to those making 80%-120% of the area's median income. According to federal government guidelines, "affordable" housing should cost no more than 30% of a tenant's income, a tall order in a state notorious for its high housing costs.

Several California jurisdictions have already joined the program. In Anaheim, the CSCDA has secured the purchase of three properties in the up-and-coming Platinum Triangle neighborhood. A spokesperson for the city called the decision "a no-brainer," citing the program as "a great opportunity to help our police officers, firefighters, and teachers," many of whom fall into the overlooked middle income bracket.

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Published on Tuesday, December 8, 2020 in Next City
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