By JEREMY HAY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Rohnert Park City Council decided Tuesday to give housing-related nonprofit agencies more money — $285,000 — than it did last year, citing hardships people are facing in a struggling economy.
“The character of a city is how we take care of those in need and we are in the worst time of need in my lifetime,” said Mayor Gina Belforte.
Two groups that last year got less than they had asked for were given a boost in new funding. The money comes from fees home developers have paid in lieu of providing affordable housing.
The money does not come from the city $25 million general fund approved Tuesday, which has a $2 million deficit.
Sonoma County Adult and Youth Development, or SCAYD, was given $130,000, up from $106,000 last year. It provides emergency rental and housing grants to city residents.
Rebuilding Together, a Rohnert Park affiliate of a national program that rehabilitates the residences of low-income homeowners, was given $70,000, up from $57,400 last year.
Those amounts were what the groups have traditionally asked for and been given by the city in redevelopment funds. But last year, with the future of redevelopment agencies uncertain, the city had cut that funding.
To find another route to assist the agencies, for now at least, the city turned to the in-lieu housing fees. But Housing and Redevelopment Director Linda Babonis suggested that even given a different source of money, fully funding the nonprofit agencies might not continue.
“This fund should not be used on a consistent basis,” she said. The “critical need” of residents, though, needed to be taken into account this year, she said.
Before the meeting, the executive directors of both nonprofit groups said that the reduction in funding last year had a significant impact.
“About 90 people didn’t get served” because of the cut in support, said James Gattis, of SCAYD.
This year, through March, SCAYD has given emergency housing assistance to 276 people, 123 of whom were children, Gattis said.
Diane Broadhead of Rebuilding Together said: “We had to reject more applications than we’ve ever done in the past, and then the scope of work than we did was a lot less than we did in the past per house.”
A third nonprofit, Committee on the Shelterless, known as COTS, also got what it asked for, $85,281.
COTS runs five transitional housing facilities for homeless people in the city and one permanent housing complex for very low-income residents.
Councilman Joe Callinan was alone in raising questions about the funding, although he voted to approve the requests.
He acknowledged that the money wasn’t from the general fund and couldn’t be used for other city services or salaries.
But, he said, “The precedent we’re setting is giving them more than we gave them last year at a time that we’re asking our employees to take pay cuts.”
He added, though, that “This is the time that it’s needed.”