With the city of Fairfield now beginning to update the General Plan Housing Element, your Economic Notes reporters thought it would be timely to take a look at the city’s Housing Division.
The loss of redevelopment funding has certainly dampened affordable housing efforts throughout California. When redevelopment agencies were active, 20 percent of their annual tax increment was required to be set aside for affordable housing. With the demise of redevelopment, most cities have been forced to scale back their housing programs and activities.
In Fairfield, the city has been able to retain a limited but diverse program offering assistance to homebuyers, renters and low-income households who need assistance in remodeling their homes or apartment buildings.
This week, we interviewed Robert Basile, the city’s Housing Division rehabilitation manager.
Economic notes: Robert, you’ve been with the city for some time but also worked as a general contractor prior to that. Give us a little background on your experience in housing-related fields.
Robert Basile: I obtained my general contractor’s license in 1983 and enjoyed working on property improvements. I joined the city in 1995 as a housing rehabilitation specialist to assist the city in its effort to provide affordable housing rehabilitation services. Over the years, I have been in charge of various housing rehabilitation programs and also supervised the Quality Neighborhood Team program and the Fairfield Housing Authority.
EN: During the Great Recession, staffing cutbacks forced the city to restructure services in some departments. Tell us a little bit about how housing services are structured today.
Basile: The city’s Housing Division basically consists of housing rehabilitation, affordable housing and the Fairfield Housing Authority. Housing rehabilitation’s mission is to help maintain and improve the housing stock in Fairfield for low-income residents by providing construction management and financing services. Affordable housing administers federal community improvement grants such as Community Development Block Grants, the First Time Homebuyer Programs and Neighborhood Stabilization Programs for Fairfield and the county. The Fairfield Housing Authority administers the city’s federal housing voucher – Section 8 – program.
EN: Obviously, with the loss of redevelopment housing funds, the money available for housing programs, including staff, has been reduced. What are some of the major funding sources remaining today for housing programs?
Basile: CDBG still funds housing programs as well as providing money for infrastructure and other community improvement projects, public services and programs.
The city has also received grants from CalHome in 2011 ($1 million) and HOME in 2013 ($500,000). CalHome provides direct, first-time homebuyer and rehabilitation loans from the California Department of Housing and Community Development to assist low-income families realize the California dream of homeownership or repair their existing homes. The home investment partnerships program provides loans that communities can use to fund a wide range of activities including buying and/or rehabilitating affordable housing for rent or homeownership.
The city also administers a federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant for the city and Solano County, which focuses on two target neighborhoods, one in the city and one in unincorporated Vallejo, to reduce the impacts of foreclosures and blighting conditions in neighborhoods particularly impacted by the recent recession.
EN: What are the big challenges and opportunities facing the city’s housing programs over the next year and the next five years?
Basile: Well, over the next year, the update to the General Plan Housing Element will update the city’s overall housing plan in Fairfield and address the availability of land to meet future housing needs. It will touch on the city’s housing programs and activities.
Additionally, the city will be preparing a Housing Real Property Asset Management and Disposal Plan for the housing properties acquired from the now-dissolved redevelopment agency. The plan will address land disposition for affordable housing and will be based on development opportunities, land values and timing. One of the biggest challenges facing the city is that the loss of redevelopment means that we must fund housing programs and staff through the sale of land. The Asset Management and Disposal Plan will help us do that.
Over the next five years, the ability to continue to fund affordable housing programs is the big challenge as the demand on existing funding sources will become even more competitive with the lack of redevelopment housing funds.
The city’s Housing Division works diligently to strengthen the city’s neighborhoods and provide services to those in need of housing assistance. If you are a low-income homeowner interested in more information about the housing rehabilitation program, contact Robert Basile at [email protected] or 707-428-738 7.
Economic Notes is an update from Fairfield City Hall written by Brian Miller and Karl Dumas of the Fairfield Planning and Development Department. Reach them at 428-7461 or email at [email protected] or [email protected]