Hayward Homelessness-Housing Task Force considers how to spend $3M in COVID relief funds

HAYWARD, Calif. — The city of Hayward is currently mulling whether to use millions in COVID-19 relief funds for more immediate tenant concerns or longer-term investments in affordable housing.

The Hayward Homelessness-Housing Task Force — comprised of Mayor Mark Salinas and councilmembers George Syrop and Dan Goldstein — met Thursday to discuss how best to use $3 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds that were allocated for housing. The task force discussed two potential uses for the funds: a program focused on creating homeownership opportunities for low-income households or services for tenants who may be impacted by the lapse of the eviction moratorium on April 29.

The state, federal and local governments took sweeping measures to keep people housed during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. That included a moratorium that prevented landlords from evicting tenants if they were impacted by COVID-19 and couldn’t pay their rent. The measures also included emergency funds to buffer people, businesses, health care providers, government agencies and others from the impacts of the pandemic.

In July 2021, the Hayward City Council passed the Federal Stimulus Expenditure Plan for $38 million in stimulus funding, which have to be expended by the end of 2024. The plan allocated $4.25 million to housing programs, including one preventing foreclosures and one assisting households with emergency relocations. Between 2019 and 2022, the city recorded an almost 22% drop in homelessness during the 2022 point-in-time count, when volunteers count how many people are unhoused on a given night. Neighboring Union City and the unincorporated areas saw increases during the same time.

On Thursday, Jim Becker, president and CEO of Richmond-based nonprofit RCF Connects, presented the task force with the option of spending the remaining $3 million on a social impact bonds program. Under the program, the city would issue municipal bonds to potential investors to fund the program and loan some of the proceeds to RCF Connects. The nonprofit would use the funds to acquire blighted properties at below-market prices, make them habitable and then sell them at an affordable price to low-income residents.

“Really the idea was if you’re going to rebuild communities, if you’re going to rebuild neighborhoods, people have to be homeowners,” Becker said. “You have to have a balance between renters and homeowners.”

The task force members said they were in favor of the program but would want to explore if there are other funds to finance it given the fact that the expiration of the eviction moratorium is on the horizon.

“If this is the last amount of ARPA funding for housing relief and we have an eviction moratorium coming to an end in 60 days, I just don’t know if this is the most urgent use of those dollars,” Syrop said.

However, Salinas said that would be directing funding toward the courts and attorneys and wouldn’t necessarily be reaching families in the same way opportunities for homeownership could.

“For me, it’s really what are we doing to really stop generational poverty,” Salinas said. “If we could get this started in a very short period of time — something that we could get started in the next eight months — I think it would be a great thing to pursue.”

The task force is expected to have a work session on exploring which of the two options would be the best use of funds.

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