Last month, the Alameda Journal reported on the news about the Navy’s intention to declare a few parcels of former Coast Guard housing as surplus property. The article went on to mention that one of the possible uses could be housing for homeless individuals and families. The parcel in question is the former North Village Housing and according to an off-agenda report to the City Council, once the Navy declares the property as surplus, a screening process will begin to figure out what to do with the property.
The history of this screening process is quite interesting and begins with the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act passed in 1987, of which Title V of that act required that the federal government identify and make available all surplus property to state and local governments as well as non-profit agencies to assist homeless individuals and families. Of course, this Act preceded the many miltary base closures and realignments in the late 80s, early 90s and so a new piece of legislation was passed to better refine the process. This new legislation: the Base Closure Community Redevelopment and Homeless Assistance Act of 1994, also known as “The Redevelopment Act” (p. 4 on the reader) was designed to:
…accommodate the impacted communities’ multiple interests in base reuse and to meet the national priority to assist homeless individuals and families. The law exempted BRAC Commission installations from the provisions of Title V of the McKinney Act and substituted a community-based process wherein representatives of the homeless and other community groups participate in local reuse planning.
The Redevelopment Act places responsibility for base reuse planning in the hands of a Local Redevelopment Authority (LRA), which represents all the local jurisdictions affected by a closing or realigning installation. The LRA is responsible for developing a reuse plan that appropriately balances the needs of the various communities for economic redevelopment, other development, and homeless assistance. HUD then reviews the plan to determine its compliance with the statute.
This new Redevelopment Act only covers bases that were closed or realigned in 1995, of which Alameda Point is one.
In Alameda’s case the LRA is the Alameda Reuse and Redevelopment Authority (ARRA). While I know that some of my own neighbors are particularly concerned with this news, it appears that the public process outlined by the Redevelopment Act will give immediate neighbors and the community at large ample opportunity to gather information and give input. While the Journal article specifically focused on uses for homeless individuals and families, it is noteable to mention that when the process begins with the annoucement from the Navy that they have declaredthat land as surplus, many other entities have the opportunity to submit “applications” once the ARRA advertises the availability of the land. An alternate use is a “public benefit conveyance” (p. 13 on the reader) which requires sponsorship from a government agency:
…Public benefit conveyance categories include parks and recreation, historic monuments, airports, health, education, correctional facilities, highways, self-help housing and wildlife conservation. Under the public benefit programs, eligible entities must apply to a sponsoring Federal agency. For example, if a city wanted to obtain surplus Federal property for use as a college, it would make an application to the Department of Education.
Of course, the main point of the Redevelopment Act is to help fill any gaps that may exist in a jurisdiction’s continuum of care. Without having reviewed Alameda’s Consolidated Plan (required by HUD from any locality receiving Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)) I wouldn’t know for sure if there are any gaps in Alameda’s Continuum. But having quickly reviewing the proposed CDBG program summary for 2007 – 08 and seeing what has and will continue to be funded, Alameda seems to have a pretty complete continuum of care as defined by HUD, that is (1) intake/assessment, (2) emergency shelter [Midway Shelter for women and children], (3) transitional housing with supportive services [Alameda Point Collaborative (APC)], and (4) Permanent housing and permanent supportive housing [APC]. Of course there are varying layers within the categories like some transitional housing prorams have a three-month program and then another stage before the client reaches the permanent housing stage, etc… Of course, someone more intimately familiar with Alameda’s continuum could provide more insight.
As an aside, I know the CDBG funds a lot of really neat programs in Alameda such as the Housing Rehabilitation and Rental Rehabilitation (around 4:12 on the video) programs. The Housing Rehabilitation provides funding for folks who may not have the additional funds to pay for some home repairs such as a leaking roof or need for a new water heater, of course you must income qualify for the program. The Rental Rehabilitation program is similar to the Housing Rehabilitation program but the income requirements are based on that of the tenants, but I digress.
So here is my only teensy problem if there is to be more housing for homeless families and/or individuals. In general, I am supportive of efforts to include more housing for this vulnerable population, but I hate to see it all concentrated in one area. That would be my only concern. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have homelessness, but that isn’t going to happen any time soon, but in an equitable world, services for homeless populations would be distributed throughout a community and not concentrated in one area.
With that said though, if it is to be used for housing Alameda’s homeless individuals and families, better there than nowhere. I would however, like to see the housing be used to help really vulnerable populations that often go overlooked when planning for social services. And that is emancipated foster youth. In general, programs for foster youth are underfunded and inadequate. With the state of California pretty much wiping their hands of foster youth once they hit age 18, many of these kids end up homeless. Often through no fault of their own, these youth are taken out of their homes because of abuse, neglect, or any combination of problems. Rather than create opportunities for these children to thrive, our government instead chooses to nickle and dime support amounts for these kids and then basically kick them to the curb at age 18 without adequate transition from child to adult. Although recently there have been small strides made for this population. In addition to signing the bill creating the BAWETA, the Governor also signed several bills that immediately address the needs of foster kids, but I digress again.
Anyway, according to the Guidebook referenced several times above on this military conversion process, there will be ample opportunity for the public to weigh in on what the future use for the North Village Housing will be. The best thing to do if you are concerned is to stay informed as much as possible, I know I will be watching and participating in future meetings on this topic.
The next step after the Navy announces the surplus status will be for the City to conduct a ”Needs Assessment” of sorts (not like the one done by the SSHRB), but might already be covered through the Consolidated plan with minor tweaking. And then they will begin to solicit proposals of interest from qualifying organizations through newspaper announcement and direct solicitations to known organizations.