A Home for Everyone:

More Affordable Housing Options Lead to Stronger Communities

"Everyone deserves a home." This is the tagline of the Housing Trust Fund Ventura County, founded in 2008 as the Ventura County Housing Trust Fund and rebranded in 2019. A 501c3 nonprofit, its goal is to provide affordable living options for everyone who is part of the community.

Access to affordable housing benefits not only individuals, but businesses as well.

“One of the struggles we have in Ventura County is that we have extremely high land costs and extremely high housing costs,” says its CEO, Linda Braunschweiger. “We hear from employers all the time who say they can’t attract entry-level employees or mid-level employees because these workers cannot afford to live in the area. Providing affordable housing is important for a community to flourish.”

Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions surrounding affordable housing. “When these projects go in front of the City Council, we hear that it’s going to bring crime, it’s going to bring congestion, that it’s going to bring ‘those people’,” she says. “Well, that’s not true. Today, the financing of affordable housing is such that investors demand and require the quality, upkeep, and strong budget for those developments because they’re getting a return on their investment.”

Overall, adds Braunschweiger, studies have shown affordable housing stabilizes families and provides opportunities such as job training and afterschool programs. These help shore up families so they can succeed.

But all this costs money—lots of money.

“In order to get the long-term financing to get the development built and provide all the supportive services, you have to have layers of funding, and we are one layer, and an early layer,” she says. “A lot of developers were telling us what they really needed is early funding that helps with architectural, environmental and city fees to be able to get started.”

One way HTFVC raises money, and what makes it unique from other Housing Trust Funds, is through Impact Investing to raise lending capital for its Everyone Deserves a Home Revolving Loan Fund.

“We are bringing government money—local, state and federal—but we’re also bringing foundation, individual and corporation money. Impact Investing provides a financial return along with constructive outcomes used to solve today’s challenges.

“We use a community impact note, which is an actual lending tool. For example, there is something called the Community Reinvestment Act—it’s a requirement for banks to give back to the community where they take deposits. So, banks have loaned us money at below-market interest rates that we can use as lending capital to developers.

Impact investing is basically the overarching term for that, and we are launching that vehicle for corporations. We know that corporations have limited philanthropic dollars, but they may also have capital they can lend us and earn a small return. And same with foundations and individuals of wealth. The goal here is to have them help us solve their communities’ affordable housing issues.”

Some of the Trust’s goals for 2020-2021 are as follows:

  • Raise $10 million by June 2021 to maximize the state’s Proposition 1 matching funds coming to Ventura County for affordable housing ($5 million raised to date).
  • Finalize federal nonprofit status of the Housing Land Trust Ventura County to receive donated land, hold it in perpetual trust, and make it available for development of affordable housing (now accepting land donations). 
  • Fund increase in loan applications of new projects (over $10 million in loans funded since 2012, which has or will produce about 598 units of housing in Ventura County).  

Besides money, the Trust needs volunteers.

“We have a variety of committees, and we’re always looking for volunteers with various backgrounds and wisdom to serve.”

Another way to assist, Braunschweiger says, is for people to publicly support affordable housing in their communities.

“We always appreciate when community members go to City Council and say they support affordable housing in their neighborhood. We’re also hoping that because of the visibility and recognition that many critical workers are getting, more people are willing to say ‘yes, we need these types of developments in our neighborhoods,’ and to say it publicly.”

To learn more about Housing Trust Fund Ventura County, visit HousingTrustFundVC.org.

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