Hundreds of millions of dollars are being made available through cap and trade auction proceed allocation to the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) program, which funds land-use, housing, transportation, and land preservation projects that support infill and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. (More background here).
These funds represent a huge opportunity for local governments – particularly for local governments in need that contain disadvantaged communities (as identified by CalEPA under SB535). However, planning and designing projects, and qualifying and applying for funds, can be a challenge – especially for governments already challenged in capacity and resources.
In a workshop held by Gateway Cities Council of Governments in Paramount, CA, funding information and technical assistance opportunities were presented this week by a number of experts – including SEEC (through the Institute for Local Government and the Coordinator), the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), the Strategic Growth Council, who administers the AHSC program, and affordable housing developers and nonprofits (including Enterprise, Abode Communities, and Meta Housing Communities) that have worked on projects under the AHSC program and were able to share best practices and lessons learned. Among them are:
- Start planning early: if an AHSC program application is due in March, it’s not a bad idea to start identifying a viable project and discussing scope across City departments and identifying partners a full year early (now!). Read the AHSC program guidelines thoroughly (updated guidelines available on SGC’s website, here) and think about what is required for housing-related infrastructure, transportation related infrastructure, transportation related amenities,
- Align with City leadership and get support early: City Managers, Mayors, and City Council members should all understand and identify with the value of the project. The project may need additional funds leveraged (requiring City Council approval); and the project will certainly require leadership in the know
- Keep communication open across departments (and jurisdictions?): The project will certainly require working together closely across multiple local government departments – depending on how your City is organized, this may mean Housing, Transit, Public Works, Planning/Zoning, Environment, and leads on sidewalks, curbs, and street lighting. If your project touches multiple jurisdictions (or if it relies on multi-jurisdictional transit), you may need to work with others as well. Communicate process, progress, needs and deadlines regularly to keep everyone on track. Developers cited regular interdepartmental meetings as a good best practice.