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Oakland Expands Homelessness Prevention Assistance

November 16, 2021 - 200 Households to Receive a “Shallow Subsidy” in Cost-Effective Pilot to Prevent Highest-Risk Residents from Leaving Oakland or Falling into Homelessness


The innovative “shallow subsidy” program focuses on families who live in Oakland’s most vulnerable communities and are at the highest risk for being displaced or becoming homeless. A report published earlier this year by Alameda County’s EveryOne Home, “Centering Racial Equity in Homeless System Design”, identified 920 Oakland households who could most benefit from an ongoing rental subsidy.


The 920 households were identified using Keep Oakland Housed assistance applications, so that vulnerable Oaklanders are not caught in a cycle of paperwork.


A “shallow subsidy” is a smaller portion of a household’s rent, compared to a larger subsidy -- such as the federal “Section 8” Housing Choice Vouchers, which often covers the majority or all of a household’s monthly housing payment, or Permanent Supportive Housing for people with mental or physical disabilities that includes important but expensive support services.


Many residents do not need a full rental subsidy or support services, but rather a smaller, more targeted amount. The 200 households participating in Oakland’s pilot will receive an average of $726 per month for 18 months -- enough to safely cover their monthly obligation and prevent them falling behind on other bills.


The 200 households are eligible to receive their “shallow subsidies” for up to 18 months, and some may not need the subsidy each month, depending on financial health. For the 920 families in Oakland who were identified in the County’s report as the most vulnerable households, it’s estimated that it would cost $10 million a year to prevent them from becoming homeless.


Residents began receiving the “shallow subsidy” payments in July, after the Oakland Fund for Public Innovation raised $3.4 million from local and regional philanthropic partners. Ultimately, the goal is for the Oakland pilot to lead to larger policy changes at the regional, state and federal levels. Developing a body of evidence on initiatives that work will lead to systemic changes required to ultimately end the housing and homelessness crisis.


The shallow subsidy pilot, conducted by Bay Area Community Services (BACS) and evaluated by researchers at the UCSF Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative (BHHI).


"Oakland is diverse and powerful, and leadership on this housing challenge will help us keep it that way,” said Jaime Almanza, CEO of BACS, who is facilitating the program. “Our community needs us to do whatever it takes to respond to the growing housing crisis. These shallow subsidies will help Oakland neighbors stabilize. This pilot is born from and rooted in equity, focusing on neighborhoods where rents have increased as much as 90% since 2012, pushing many local families of color out of their homes. By reducing the rent burden for these families, we can stop homelessness and displacement before they start.”


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