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Declining funding means hazy future for city housing plan

POSTED April 27, 2012 9:15 p.m.

After several successful years for Turlock Housing Program Services, the department now finds itself facing rapidly declining funding. State support is dropping, federal stimulus funds are drying up, and the elimination of redevelopment agencies has cut millions more in dedicated low-income housing funding.

“It creates some limitations about what we can do,” said Maryn Pitt, Turlock Housing Program Services manager. “As I’ve mentioned before council, this is the year of the perfect storm for housing.”

Uncertainties reign in the current budget cycle, with the department facing potential layoffs.

Yet the department continues on, preparing its Annual Action Plan detailing its planned activities for the year. For 2012-2013, the federally-required document mostly calls for carrying on some successful past programs – first-time homebuyer loan programs and home rehabilitation programs chief among them – though in some cases at a reduced scale.

But some new efforts will blossom in 2012-2013, including three new transitional housing units made possible by a partnership between homeless service provider We Care and the City of Turlock. The units will offer homeless a path from the streets to housed living for the two-year term of the grant.

Other new partnerships with area non-profits could create affordable housing which Turlock would not be able to afford by itself. And an in-development downtown plan update is expected to be completed this year, potentially clearing the way for second-story downtown housing.

The plan also notes successes from the past year, chief among them the start of construction on Avena Bella – the new, 80-unit affordable housing development at 500 W. Linwood – and the opening of Turlock Gospel Mission’s Homeless Assistance Ministry day center. Those successes offer more opportunities for 2012-2013.

Avena Bella is set to open next year, with a potential 60-unit expansion on the horizon. And TGM will seek shelter grants with the City of Turlock’s help, hopefully leading to the construction of a 24-hour full-service shelter in Turlock.

There are still good projects and opportunities for Housing Program Services, Pitt said. It’s just that making those projects happen will suddenly become much more difficult.

“It’s going to make it pretty tough going from here to find both cash match and to be able to leverage with non-federal money,” Pitt said. “We’re going to have to get creative.”

The Annual Action Plan is available online for review at http://www.ci.turlock.ca.us/citydepartments/developmentservices/housing/

To comment on the document, e-mail hps@turlock.ca.us. A final hearing to discuss the plan is expected at the 7 p.m. May 8 meeting of the Turlock City Council, at 156 S. Broadway.

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