April 2, 2024
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Forum focuses on needed affordable housing for area educators 

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Many students at California’s public colleges and universities have to sleep in their cars because they can’t afford permanent housing, including dormitories.

Among them are those enrolled at CSU Channel Islands, according to Linda Braunschweiger, CEO of the Housing Trust Fund Ventura County.

“There’s a large percentage of them,” she told the Business Times on March 5, a few days after her nonprofit co-hosted a symposium at the school.

The Feb. 29 forum addressed the need for more affordable housing for students, teachers, administrators, and related education sector employees in Ventura County — the least affordable housing market in the nation.

The “Home for Education” event gathered community leaders to focus specifically on the challenges of how to convert excess land that is owned by school districts in the county into affordable housing.

“The purpose is to bring together the development community and the education community to sit down and start talking about how to meet those challenges,” Braunschweiger, who is also the CEO of the Housing Land Trust Ventura County, said during a break at the event.

Braunschweiger said the two primary hurdles are the costs of developing affordable housing projects and finding long-term financing for them.

School districts in Ventura County that own excess land that can be developed into affordable housing include the Ojai Unified School District, which is entertaining just such a project, the Ventura Unified School District, and the Pleasant Valley School District, she said.

Housing Trust Fund Ventura County was launched in 2011 to help increase affordable housing options throughout the county by leveraging public-private partnerships to provide low-cost, flexible loans in the pre-development stage.

Co-hosting the symposium with the trust fund were CSUCI, Ventura County, the Ventura County Office of Education, and the Ventura County P-20 Council.

The forum highlighted the trust fund’s accomplishments, including $27.5 million in funded or committed loans since 2013 and $40 million raised.

That has resulted in 1,177 affordable apartments and homes committed, funded, and produced throughout Ventura County for very-low, low- and middle-income employees, transitional-age foster youth, veterans, farm workers, and the homeless.

One of the symposium’s keynote speakers, Al Grazioli, director of real estate and business development for the Los Angeles Unified School District, said affordable housing has several benefits for school districts.

It can attract and retain qualified teachers and staff, make districts become employers of choice, and allow employees to live in and become a part of the communities they serve.

“We needed housing yesterday,” he said.

The other keynote speaker, Abraham Galvan Sanchez, an attorney with Best Best & Krieger, agreed.

“There is a dire need for teacher housing,” Galvan Sanchez, who specializes in land use and housing laws, said.

A step in the right direction, he noted, was Assembly Bill 2295, which Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law in 2022, adding a new section to the state’s Government Code.

The section considers housing development projects on property owned by a local educational agent to be an allowable use of the property, provided certain criteria are met.

Braunschweiger said she would like to see the Ventura County business community step up and invest more to help solve the region’s affordable housing problem.

“If you look up in the Bay Area, Silicon Valley and all that area, huge corporate headquarters commit and donate millions of dollars towards solving the housing crisis up there,” she said.

“I’d like to see the business community in Ventura County and bigger corporations do the same thing,” Braunschweiger said. “They can be a player in solving the problem.”

And in so doing, they can help themselves by creating more affordable workforce housing, she said.

The scarcity of such housing frequently makes it hard for employers to fill positions since many qualified candidates can’t afford to live in Ventura County.

The symposium concluded with tours of two housing developments adjacent to the CSUCI campus – University Glen and the under-construction Anacapa Canyon. 

Both developments were built on educational properties owned by CSUCI and will be home to nearly 2,000 residents including university employees, educational allies, alumni, seniors, and the public. 

“These developments remind us that discussions like today have the potential of becoming homes tomorrow,” Braunschweiger said in a press release.

“Today we took an important step towards ensuring more homes for all as a community,” she said.

email: mharris@pacbiztimes.com