Orange County’s business community is partnering with a non-profit housing trust to raise money to build housing for the homeless and other low-income residents. The Disney Resort donated $5 million to a revitalized housing trust fund, kickstarting a business-backed campaign to raise cash for housing the homeless, Orange County business leaders said Monday, March 4.

The low-key Orange County Housing Trust, incorporated in 2010 and operating on a small budget, under a partnership between the Orange County Business Council and NeighborWorks Orange County, a nonprofit housing assistance agency, said Lucy Dunn, Business Council Chief Exec. The goal is to make “last-mile” loans available to affordable housing projects which have already secured most of their funding, providing enough capital to push proposed developments “across the finish line.” “There has been a heightened focus on the critical issue of homelessness in Orange County,” said Steve Churm, past chairman of the Orange County Business Council board and a new board member of the O.C. Housing Trust.

The announcement is 1 year after the county’s homeless crisis came to a head, with cities & advocates squaring off in court over government inaction. The trust has already committed to funding a four-story, 102-unit affordable housing development Jamboree Housing Corp. is planning at the corner of Manchester and Orangewood avenues. Disney Resort Pres. Josh D’Amaro hopes the contribution will spur more companies to donate saying, “when Disney acts, others take notice.”

Anaheim has a poverty rate of 16%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The county’s poverty rate stands at 11.5%.
The housing trust comes to life just as local governments are launching another trust fund to support new affordable housing construction. In September, the state Legislature approved the creation of the Orange County Housing Finance Trust, jointly run by the county and its 34 cities.

Like the housing trust, the finance trust seeks to finance construction of supportive housing for homeless people and affordable housing for low-income residents but with public dollars, said David Kiff, interim executive director of the Association of California Cities-Orange County.] Kiff said the OC Board of Supervisors and local cities will be deciding whether to join the new “joint powers authority,” which likely will hold its first meeting in May or June.

Initial funding will come from Proposition 1, the $4 billion affordable housing bond package state voters approved in November, Kiff said. The ballot measure includes $300 million to support local housing trusts. Additional funding sources include revenue from a newly created real estate document filing fee and matching funds from other sources. The finance trust “is more about maximizing Orange County’s share of public dollars,” Kiff said. He and others said both trusts are needed because some businesses are reluctant to contribute to a fund run by elected officials.

Leaders of NeighborWorks long envisioned an Orange County trust fund patterned after the Housing Trust Silicon Valley, which raises capital from the tech sector and other businesses to help fund affordable housing construction throughout the Bay Area. Over the past 5 years, the O.C. Housing Trust leveraged about $1.5 million to finance numerous building projects providing permanent housing for the homeless – as opposed to temporary shelters, said NeighborWorks CEO Helen O’Sullivan, who also is the housing trust’s executive director.

A UC Irvine study reported 2 years ago homelessness costs local government housing agencies, hospitals and other entities about $299 million a year. Orange County could save $42 million a year in health care, law enforcement and other expenses by placing the chronically homeless in permanent housing, the study concluded.

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