This fall, Brilliant Corners pursued a variety of advocacy initiatives in housing and homelessness policy, across federal, state and local levels. Over the last months, Brilliant Corners participated in several actions on the federal infrastructure bill, engaged statewide on policy recommendations, and continued efforts locally in LA County to ensure full funding for Measure J, a ballot measure passed last fall to address longstanding racial disparities and inadequate community investments in underserved and impacted LA County communities. Additionally, we supported various bills, calls to action, and legislative proposals that advance the homeless response system’s collective capacity to expand housing access through a lens of equity. We have outlined below the federal, state and local advocacy initiatives that we are currently pursuing that align with our mission to end homelessness.
At the Federal Level
Build Back Better Package
In September, while Congress was actively negotiating a reconciliation bill for its larger infrastructure package, Brilliant Corners issued letters to key members of Congress on the Ways and Means Committee and Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Committee, in collaboration with Southern California Association of NonProfit Housing (SCANPH), highlighting key priorities for the housing and homelessness sector. Recommendations included extending provisions to increase the timeframe for funding, providing $150 billion in housing choice vouchers and $500 million annually for Special Purpose Vouchers, increasing funding for housing for the elderly, providing funding for green building upgrades at affordable housing projects as well as other improvements, and many other recommendations to increase access to affordable housing. Brilliant Corners also joined the HoUSed campaign, spearheaded by the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH), signing onto a letter calling on Congress to expand access to rental assistance and building and preserving housing supply through investments in public housing and the National Housing Trust Fund.
At the State Level
In October, Brilliant Corners signed a memo to the Homeless Coordinating Financing Council, in collaboration with 350 other organizations and service providers throughout the housing and homelessness sector, regarding the implementation of AB 140 – Homeless Housing Assistance and Prevention Program (HHAP). The memo provided recommendations on the implementation of the HHAP program, as approved by AB 140 and signed by Governor Newsom on July 19, 2021.
Brilliant Corners issued a letter of support for SB 678 to make California the first state in the nation to recognize unaccompanied women who are experiencing homelessness–without children or other dependents–as a distinct subpopulation in order to improve the state’s ability to design programs and strategies to address their specific needs. The bill would require the state’s Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council to set specific, measurable goals aimed at preventing and ending homelessness among unaccompanied women. While the Assembly Appropriations decided not to move forward with this bill during the FY21 legislative cycle, we will continue to work with our partner Downtown Women’s Center to pursue further opportunities to advocate for ending homelessness among unaccompanied women.
Housing and Community Development (HCD) Multifamily Housing Program (MHP) Regulations
In September, Brilliant Corners’ Housing Development Team submitted comments to the California Department of Housing and Community Development for the State Housing Law Program Laws and Regulations. Our comments included a request to eliminate the limit on the number of department sources that can be utilized for a single project, so that projects eligible for more than two department sources could be allowed to apply. We also provided comments that encouraged HCD to utilize California Debt Limit Allocation Committee’s (CDLAC) experience point criteria, which refers to the Tax Credit Allocation Committee’s (TCAC) scoring criteria but also allows alternative pathways for emerging BIPOC developers.
Bringing Families Home and Housing Support Program
Brilliant Corners is working alongside the California Department of Social Services as stakeholders in both the Bringing Families Home program, focused on reducing the number of families in the child welfare system experiencing or at risk of homelessness, and the Housing Support Program, which seeks to improve housing stability for families experiencing homelessness in the CalWORKs program. Brilliant Corners will be working to help implement both these important programs effectively.
Stable Homes Coalition
Brilliant Corners joined the Stable Homes Coalition, an initiative focused on acquisition-rehabilitation efforts of unsubsidized affordable housing. The coalition is focused on two pieces of legislation: AB 1375 (Bloom) and SB 490 (Caballero), which were held as 2-year bills, and elements of sponsored budget request were incorporated into the $500 million Foreclosure Intervention Housing Preservation Program (FIHPP), which was included in the 2021 Budget.
At the Local level
Measure J (now Care First and Community Investment)
Measure J is a key pillar of LA County’s Care First vision, the process of reinvesting in communities that have been harmed by generations of over-policing, under-investment and systemic racism, and seeks to correct the historical wrongdoings of a decades-long carceral infrastructure that fails to meet the needs of system-impacted communities.
After Measure J was ruled unconstitutional in July 2021 by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mary Strobel, the Board of Supervisors transformed the Measure J Re-imagine LA Advisory Committee into the Care First and Community Investment Advisory Committee. This was a key step to preserve the framework and process created by Measure J and continue the County’s commitment to investing in the most highly impacted communities, trust-building and accountability with the community, and to redress systemic and historic disinvestment. Amid widespread community support, the LA County Board of Supervisors voted in August to allocate $187.7 million towards Care First Community Investment. While the Year 1 allocation still falls short of the $900+ million that advocates have demanded, it’s a historic investment nonetheless.
In October, we mobilized in support of approving the supplemental changes to the FY 2021-22 Adopted County Budget. The supplemental items contained the Care First and Community Investment allocations, which prioritize investments in health, public assistance, housing, mental health promotoras, mental health crisis and intervention, sustaining a COVID-19 response, and specifically de-prioritizes and divests from carceral systems, and included dedicated funding for our Breaking Barriers Program, ODR housing programs, and Housing for Health. Through community action and advocacy over the last few months, the Board of Supervisors approved the Community Care and Investment (formerly Measure J) allocations in the FY21-22 County budget. Meanwhile, the process for Year 2 has already begun in an effort to allow more time and planning around community engagement. The Re-Imagine LA Coalition continues to advocate for greater transparency in the Third Party Administrator selection process and implementation, as well as increasing community participation in the new fiscal year.
Expanding the Los Angeles Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool
In Los Angeles, we took action to voice our support of increasing permanent housing by expanding the Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool, in response to a motion brought forward by LA County Supervisors Kuehl and Solis to develop a feasibility study in support of expanding this evidence-tested, nationally recognized supportive housing model. Brilliant Corners advocated to expand the LA County Flex Pool, a timely strategy to maximize federal emergency housing vouchers and scale the solution that works to end the cycle of homelessness: permanent supportive housing. Brilliant Corners FHSP Associate Director Jasmine Brizuela and Housing Justice Manager Jose Osuna provided public comment during the meeting to speak about the Flex Pool and Brilliant Corners’ impact.
Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act
We issued support for developing recommendations for a Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) for Unincorporated Los Angeles County. This was an important motion to provide greater protections for low-income tenants and increase access to affordable housing — key to a prevention strategy. TOPA gives low-income tenants an opportunity to purchase their home if their landlord chooses to sell and aims to stem gentrification and displacement in our communities by giving tenants the Right of First Offer and Right of First Refusal.
Assembly Bill (AB) 109 Community Corrections Partnership Implementation Plan
In August, the Public Safety Realignment Team’s (PSRT) updated AB 109 Implementation Plan was put before the LA County Board of Supervisors, which advocated for the critical shift of resources from the justice system to community-based services. The plan offered a framework for expanding treatment and service delivery approaches in order to support reentry and improve outcomes, as well as to help reduce the number of individuals ultimately subject to AB 109 supervision or custody. Brilliant Corners mobilized to express support of the revised AB 109 Implementation plan and urged the LA County Board of Supervisors to approve it. While our comments focused largely on the much-needed shift of resources from the carceral system into community-based supports, passing the AB 109 spending plan as submitted would also mean funding for our Breaking Barriers program. While that motion was approved, it is still uncertain how the LA County CEO intends to fund the PSRT plan, perhaps only allocating the AB 109 surplus funding towards the PSRT recommendations. We will continue advocating for the revised AB 109 Implementation Plan, and supporting community alternatives over incarceration.
Expansion of Fire District 1
We took action alongside our community development partner SCANPH to express opposition to a motion to explore expansion of Fire District 1 in LA County. The expansion of Fire District 1 would be extremely harmful to the future production of affordable housing, as such an expansion would limit developers’ access to land, increase building costs, and eliminate the efficient and sustainable building approach used by affordable housing developers in our region. We also encouraged the exploration of other options for increasing fire safety in our city without exacerbating our housing crisis.