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Santa Monica Expands Senior Housing Subsidies

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By Jorge Casuso

August 14, 2019 -- The City Council on Tuesday voted to provide $2 million in housing subsidies to as many as 400 Santa Monica seniors struggling to make their rent control payments.

The vote greatly expands to between 250 and 400 households the two-year-old Preserving Our Diversity pilot program that served 22 seniors at a cost of $300,000 a year. Phase two of the program raises the eligible age from 62 to 65.

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"I believe that we can save a lot of our people in need with this money, a lot more than we can by building everybody new units," said Councilmember Greg Morena.

"These are people who are really living on the edge," said Councilmember Sue Himmelrich. "A fifty dollar increase in rent can make a difference."

The program serves households that need monthly cash-based assistance of $700 or less per one-person household and its equivalent of $1,225 or less per two-person household, according to staff.

Larger households are not eligible for the program.

"The actual number of households served will depend on the proportion of one-person and two-person households, as well as the amount of assistance needed within the ‘monthly assistance range’ by each household," staff wrote in its report.

The basic needs amount is assessed using the program's After-Rent Income Standard derived from UCLA's Elder Index Basic Needs Budget, City officials said.

The Housing Commission will review the program as it progresses, staff said.

The application period is scheduled to open in early winter with participants being enrolled on a rolling basis throughout 2020, City officials said.

The program will cost $157,306 a year to administer. The money will come from other City housing funds.

The program is an "innovative approach to preventing displacement and homelessness" and advances the Council’s Framework Priority of Affordability, officials said.

The program "maintains the dignity of our seniors who quietly struggle with rent, food, and housing insecurity," Mayor Gleam Davis said in a statement after the meeting.

"By adding hundreds of long-time senior residents to the program, we will make a dent in the affordability crisis that often requires seniors to choose between paying rent or medical bills and even raises the specter of homelessness."

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