Fast-tracking Funding for Affordable Housing

Willowbrook 2 project

The Board of Supervisors approved $50 million to build affordable housing for people with mental illness and their families using funds from the Mental Health Service Act (MHSA).

“This is an innovative way to finance 10 urgently needed supportive housing projects and put them on the fast track,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, principal author of the motion, said. “The plan calls for building 667 affordable housing units, including 230 units for people in dire need of mental health treatment and their families.”

“By taking these actions, in addition to what the County had originally budgeted for this year, we are able to fund additional supportive homes for people who have a mental health diagnosis and are homeless,” added the motion’s coauthor, Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “We are also supporting construction of additional affordable apartments and I am hoping that every one of these apartments can be under construction before the end of the year.”

Of the total amount, $43.75 million will be used by the Community Development Commission to fund competitive affordable housing applications. The remaining $6.25 million will be used in a separate competition to investigate innovative ways to fund housing.

A portion of the money will help fund 100 affordable housing units in Willowbrook, half of which would be reserved for homeless individuals with mental health needs. Nonprofit developer LINC Housing’s chief operating officer, Suny Lay Chang, called it “a tremendous investment that would be felt at multiple levels.”

“As numerous studies have shown, integrating housing and health care leads to better health outcomes, greater housing stability, and a significant reduction in the use of county resources,” she said. “We are extremely grateful to the Board of Supervisors for their continued and sustained support in addressing the housing shortage in Los Angeles County, particularly for our most vulnerable populations.”

Voters approved the MHSA as Proposition 63 on the November 2004 ballot. It imposes a 1 percent income tax on personal income in excess of $1 million, allowing the California Department of Mental Health to provide increased funding, personnel and other resources to support County mental health programs and monitor progress toward statewide goals for children, transition age youth, adults, older adults and families.

The MHSA addresses a broad continuum of prevention, early intervention and service needs and the necessary infrastructure, technology and training elements that will effectively support this system.