County Funds Housing for Developmentally Disabled Residents

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                      
October 8, 2019 

COUNTY FUNDS HOUSING FOR DEVELOPMENTALLY DISABLED RESIDENTS

SAN JOSE – The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously today to award three separate projects funds to develop housing for developmentally disabled residents in Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, and the City of Santa Clara. The County funds, in combination with various other sources of support, will result in 214 new apartments, including 60 units specifically available for low-income residents with developmental disabilities.

“Now it’s real,” said County Supervisor Joe Simitian, who led the effort to fund the projects. “We have three new projects; that means three new locations for residents with developmental disabilities to call home.”

The three projects approved for funding were:

  • Wilton Court Apartments in Palo Alto which will result in 59 units (including 21 units for residents with developmental disabilities and their families);
  • Block 15 in Sunnyvale which will result in 90 units (including 23 units for residents with developmental disabilities and their families);
  • And, 2330 Monroe Street in Santa Clara which will result in 65 units (including 16 units for residents with developmental disabilities and their families).

Simitian said he was particularly pleased that two of the three projects were in his supervisorial district (District Five), “a high cost area where affordable housing of any type is hard to find.”

Today’s action came as a follow up to last month’s vote to establish guidelines for developers looking to access the first $10 million in funds set aside for the construction of housing units that are designed specifically for residents with developmental disabilities.

"With these three funding commitments, the County is showing the rest of California how to partner with cities and developers,” said Jan Stokley, Executive Director of Housing Choices. “These three projects absolutely required additional county funding to reach the level of housing affordability that most adults with developmental disabilities need.  We hope more cities and developers across Santa Clara County will be inspired by the County's leadership."

In September of 2018 Simitian proposed that the County provide funds to ensure this vulnerable population does not have to slip into homelessness to qualify for housing created with County assistance. At Simitian’s urging, the Board directed staff to identify $40 million in County funds to support the creation of affordable housing units with supportive services specifically for lower income residents with developmental disabilities.

Simitian’s 2018 proposal to use Measure A housing funds initially met resistance from some colleagues and community members who wanted 100% of the available housing funds for County residents who were already homeless, chronically homeless or at immediate risk of homelessness.

Simitian argued at the time that it made no sense to, “essentially require people to slide into homelessness before we provide assistance. I don’t think that’s sound policy, and I don’t think it’s a fundamentally humane way to address the needs of extremely low income and very low income people with developmental disabilities.”

“The smart, humane, and cost-effective approach is to prevent homelessness, not require it as a necessary precondition to assistance,” said Simitian.

Given the resistance to using Measure A funding specifically for people with developmental disabilities, Simitian suggested looking for other sources of funding and was pleased to hear from County Executive Jeff Smith that Smith thought County staff could find the proposed $40 million from other sources without using Measure A funds. On Simitian’s motion, the Board directed Smith (5-0) to do just that.

“I wanted to get us away from a zero-sum conversation – to see if we could address both sets of needs,” said Simitian. “It appears we did. This is one of those times when all’s well that ends well.”

“Many of these folks live with aging parents,” said Simitian. “Given that developmentally disabled community members are particularly at-risk of grave harm when they become homeless, it’s absolutely crucial that we find ways to keep them housed, with the services they need.”

“I’m pleased the Board of Supervisors unanimously directed the County Executive to find forty million dollars to address the housing needs of individuals with developmental disabilities,” said Stokley. “They’re a vulnerable group of county residents who are not yet homeless, but are just a heartbeat away from a housing crisis.”

A developmental disability is typically defined as a disability which:

·        Severely affects at least three of seven areas of daily living – for example, communication, ability to be financially self-supporting, social skills, physical ability, cognitive ability, or ability to provide basic self-care,

  • Emerges before the age of 18 (though not always),
  • Is likely to continue for the rest of the person’s life, and
  • Is severe enough that the person needs supportive services.

“An estimated two-thirds of adults with developmental disabilities live at home with aging family members. With very limited personal income, the death of a parent could easily leave them with no place to live,” said Leslye Corsiglia, Executive Director of Silicon Valley at Home, in a letter to the Board. “Parents are understandably concerned as their adult children face both the loss of their support network and their housing. Safe, secure, affordable homes are needed to give those with developmental disabilities a place to call their own.”

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