Our Housing Stability CAN is dedicated to a future where all Coachella Valley families have access to stable, safe, and affordable housing. We organize around housing stability because residents consistently cited housing instability as one of the most important sources of their stress and vulnerability—and stated that accessing higher quality and more stable housing is one of their most desired goals.
We track progress towards this goal through the population-level indicator of rent burden. Rent burden measures how much of a total household’s income paid in rent. A household is considered “rent burdened” if rent comprises more than 30 percent of the household’s total income. The rent burden threshold—where residents pay over 30 percent of their income on rent—is an important threshold that is widely recognized as a tipping point, after which households are forced to pay so much of their total income on rent that they can no longer afford other life expenses such as food, educational spending, healthcare, and energy bills. These decisions impact the daily lives and future opportunities of Coachella Valley residents.
Currently, over half of households in the Coachella Valley are rent burdened. Low-income residents face disproportionate impacts: 79 percent of households that earn less than $50,000 per year are rent burdened. Our Housing Stability CAN is dedicated to addressing this important issue.
The deep and pervasive impacts of rent burden on residents drives our CAN to address this issue through both long-term housing opportunity, achieved through the construction of new housing across our region; and immediate financial stabilizing interventions, to help residents save money and gain greater immediate financial support. We recognize that improving housing supply is one crucial end goal to create population-level housing stability. At the same time, however, Coachella Valley families need greater financial support, to keep more money in their pockets for food and other bills. For this reason, we simultaneously pursue a dual strategy of short- and long-term interventions, to create immediate impacts, while building towards long-term systems change.
Immediate Stabilizing Interventions
We promote immediate strategies to help residents gain greater financial stability in the short-term. We are working with partners to pilot and scale interventions to foster asset building and improve local financial knowledge, and to increase access to basic support mechanisms, including energy subsidies. We work to bridge information deficits, identify and assess the financial ecosystem to enhance resident access to basic support mechanisms, and pilot tests that can help residents immediately improve their financial situation.
Long-term Housing Opportunity: Our Connect Capital Initiative
Our Housing Stability CAN has focused on creating long-term systems change by advancing a regional vision for safe and affordable housing, primarily achieved by encouraging the construction of new housing units. We have established an ambitious goal: to reduce rent burden by 30 percent in 10 years—by 2028. This goal requires us to build 9,881 housing units. This goal is particularly significant given the history of housing production across the Coachella Valley, where our region has only produced an average of 136 new affordable rental units each year from 2010 to 2018.
We have partnered with the County of Riverside Economic Development Agency to achieve our vision. Our partnership was recently selected to participate as one of only five cohorts nationwide in the Connect Capital initiative to pursue a “capital absorption” framework, launched by the Center for Community Investment and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Connect Capital has encouraged us to entirely re-think the way we have approached affordable housing creation, to focus on building a regional plan for housing, and creating a funding pipeline to support our bold goal. This framework rejects the project-by-project basis by which we currently pursue new affordable housing construction, which frustrates action by creating a chicken-and-egg dilemma: we need a pipeline of projects to attract funding, but we lack ready projects to fund because we do not plan in advance of funding. Rather, the capital absorption framework suggests that by creating a pipeline of projects—based on an ambitious, systems-level analysis of community need—and simultaneously seeking funding for the projects, we can build towards the systems-level work necessary to advance a solution that address our critical scarcity in housing supply.
In this partnership, we are working with government partners from the cities and the county, and state and federal legislators, as well as private and nonprofit developers, banks, and other key stakeholders necessary to advance this ambitious housing systems work.