A Guide to Housing Programs and Benefits in California: Eligibility, Application, and More

California is one of the most expensive and competitive states to live in, with a high demand and a low supply of housing. Many Californians struggle to afford or find a suitable place to live, especially those who are low-income, homeless, disabled, elderly, or involved in the child welfare or adult protective services systems. To help these Californians access safe, decent, and affordable housing, the state government offers various housing programs and benefits that provide financial assistance, housing support, and legal protection. In this article, we will provide an overview of some of the most important and recent housing programs and benefits in California, and how they may help you.

Housing Programs: Providing Financial Assistance and Housing Support

Housing programs are designed to provide financial assistance and housing support to eligible Californians who need help with paying rent, securing housing, or maintaining housing stability. These programs are funded and regulated by the state government, but are administered and operated by local agencies, such as county welfare departments, homeless continuum of care agencies, housing authorities, or community organizations. Some of the most significant housing programs that are available in California are:

Project Roomkey/Homelessness COVID Response

This program provides non-congregate sheltering for people experiencing homelessness, to protect human life and minimize strain on health care system capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program uses federal, state, and local funds to lease hotels, motels, and other properties to house homeless individuals who are at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19, or who have tested positive for COVID-19. The program also provides wraparound services, such as meals, security, case management, and health care, to the program participants. The program is a collaboration between the state, counties, cities, and service providers.

CalWORKs Housing Support Program (HSP)

This program fosters housing stability for families experiencing homelessness who are receiving or applying for CalWORKs, which is the state’s cash assistance program for low-income families with children. The program assists homeless CalWORKs families in obtaining permanent housing and can provide temporary shelter, help with moving costs, short to medium-term rental subsidies, and wraparound case management. The program is funded by the state and administered by the county welfare departments, in partnership with local homeless continuum of care agencies and service providers.

CalWORKs Homeless Assistance (HA)

This program helps CalWORKs families meet the reasonable costs of securing housing or preventing homelessness. The program serves eligible CalWORKs recipients or applicants who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The program can provide payments for temporary shelter for up to 16 cumulative calendar days, as well as payments to secure or maintain housing, such as a security deposit, last month’s rent, or up to two months of rent arrearages. The program is funded and administered by the county welfare departments.

Bringing Families Home Program (BFH)

This program helps reduce the number of families in the child welfare system experiencing homelessness, increase family reunification, and prevent foster care placements. The program serves homeless families involved with the child welfare system and is designed to offer housing supports in order for families to successfully reunify. The program can provide temporary shelter, help with moving costs, short to medium-term rental subsidies, and wraparound case management. The program is funded by the state and administered by the county welfare and child welfare departments, in collaboration with local homeless continuum of care agencies and service providers.

Housing and Disability Advocacy Program (HDAP)

This program assists homeless and disabled individuals apply for disability benefit programs, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), while also providing housing support. The program requires that participating counties offer outreach, case management, benefits advocacy, and housing supports to all program participants. The program can provide temporary shelter, help with moving costs, short to medium-term rental subsidies, and wraparound case management. The program is funded by the state and administered by the county welfare departments, in collaboration with local homeless continuum of care agencies and service providers.

Home Safe Program

This program supports the safety and housing stability of individuals involved in Adult Protective Services (APS) who are experiencing, or at imminent risk of experiencing, homelessness due to elder or dependent adult abuse, neglect, self-neglect, or financial exploitation. The program provides housing-related assistance using evidence-based practices for homeless assistance and prevention, such as housing problem-solving, flexible financial assistance, housing navigation, and housing stabilization services. The program is funded by the state and administered by the county welfare and APS

Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8)

This program helps low-income families, seniors, and people with disabilities afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market. The program provides rental assistance to eligible households by paying a portion of their rent and utilities directly to the landlord. The program also ensures that the housing units meet minimum standards of health and safety. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and administered by local public housing authorities (PHAs) or other entities contracted by HUD.

Public Housing Program

This program provides affordable rental housing for low-income families, seniors, and people with disabilities. The program offers a variety of housing options, such as apartments, townhouses, or single-family homes, owned and managed by local PHAs or other entities contracted by HUD. The program also provides supportive services, such as education, job training, and counseling, to help residents improve their quality of life. The program is funded and regulated by HUD and administered by local PHAs or other entities contracted by HUD.

Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) Program

This program encourages private investment in the development and preservation of affordable rental housing for low-income households. The program provides federal tax credits to developers who agree to set aside a certain percentage of their units for low-income tenants for a minimum period of 15 years. The program also requires that the units meet certain affordability and quality standards. The program is administered by the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee (CTCAC), which allocates the tax credits to eligible projects through a competitive process.

Multifamily Housing Program (MHP)

This program provides deferred-payment loans to developers for the construction, rehabilitation, preservation, or conversion of rental housing for low-income households, with a priority for supportive housing for homeless individuals and families. The program also provides technical assistance and capacity building for nonprofit developers and local governments. The program is funded by state bonds and administered by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD).

No Place Like Home Program (NPLH)

This program provides funding and incentives for the development of permanent supportive housing for people who are experiencing homelessness, chronic homelessness, or who are at risk of chronic homelessness, and who are living with a serious mental illness. The program also requires the provision of coordinated mental health and other supportive services to the program participants. The program is funded by state bonds and administered by HCD, in collaboration with the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) and the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA).

These housing programs are intended to provide financial assistance and housing support to eligible Californians who need help with paying rent, securing housing, or maintaining housing stability. However, they also face some challenges and limitations, such as the availability and adequacy of funding, the complexity and variability of eligibility and application processes, the scarcity and accessibility of housing units, and the coordination and integration of services. Therefore, it is important for all stakeholders to be informed and engaged in the implementation and evaluation of these programs, and to seek ways to improve their efficiency and effectiveness.

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