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County offers incentives to property owners to house the homeless

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    SANTA CRUZ, California (KSBW) — Santa Cruz County is offering financial incentives to property owners who can offer housing to those currently experiencing homelessness.

“We’re really relying on the good heartiness of the Santa Cruz community to help us do that,” Senior Director of Housing Programs at Fremont-based nonprofit Abode Programs Katie Fantin said.

Santa Cruz County officially started its “Rehousing Wave” program Wednesday. It’s an $8 million partnership with nonprofit organizations, such as Abode, to find permanent housing for homeless individuals with landlords and property owners.

Fantin said there is an urgency to find housing for more than 300 people who were temporarily housed in the state’s “Project Roomkey,” the program that temporarily housed people in motels.

“Our primary goal is to help folks who have been in the transitional motels for the last 12-15 months, to help them find the next housing option,” Fantin said.

Fantin said that the next option could be anyone’s spare unit.

“Whether it’s a spare room, whether it’s an apartment, whether it’s a house, we’re looking for any and all available housing options,” Fantin said.

Fantin said they will be giving participating property owners $1,000 as a signing bonus and then $500 for every additional unit after that.

“This is a business decision for you, to be able to have someone to move into your unit who is a good qualified tenant and for us to help someone who needs housing,” Fantin said, speaking indirectly to landlords.

Abode and the other organizations will help pay the tenants’ rent in the beginning and work with them to build their income and become self-sufficient, Fantin said.

Santa Cruz County Housing for Health Director Robert Ratner said the county is marketing the program as a “wave” in order to send the message that they need the community to make the program successful.

“The idea of a wave is like we’re all in this together, kind of creating a movement. We’ve got an opportunity that’s really unprecedented to create the kind of partnership with the resources, but we need that support from folks in the community.”

Ratner said those who provide housing will receive rental subsidies, money to cover administrative fees, security deposits and/or property damage.

He also said tenants will work with case managers along the way and Abode will be providing a 24-hour hotline to resolve any disputes.

Ratner said the county put these measures in place “To really make sure we’re accounting for concerns about risk, that any property owners or managers may have we have that collection of resources.”

The county acknowledges despite the financial incentives it could still be difficult to find willing partners.

“I think there’s an assumption that someone who’s experiencing homelessness would make a bad tenant, and that’s just not real. I think homelessness can happen to anyone, under any circumstances, and frankly, it has,” Fantin said.”We’re just here to try and provide a good match for our landlord and to help them break down some of the stigma and barriers that they might have in that situation.”

Fantin said they will house their first applicants this weekend.

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