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Sonoma County Gazette
Sonoma County 2020 Affordable Housing Needs Report published by California Housing Partnership
Sonoma County 2020 Affordable Housing Needs Report published by California Housing Partnership

Sonoma County
Affordable Housing Shortage & Homelessness

Jun 24, 2020


Ceylan Karasapan-Crow

Sourced from SONOMA COUNTY 2020 Affordable Housing Needs Report, National Coalition for the Homeless,, National Alliance to End Homelessness, 2018 Homeless Census Report and

Homelessness in Sonoma County

Almost 3,000 people are homeless on any given night in Sonoma County. The Sonoma County Community Development Commission conducts a 24 hour “Homeless Count” every year.  The Count measures the impact of local homeless services. The Point-in-Time Count is the only source of nationwide data on sheltered and unsheltered homelessness, and is required by HUD of all jurisdictions receiving federal funding to provide housing and services for individuals and families experiencing homelessness. Currently, the Sonoma County Continuum of Care (CoC) receives approximately $3.3 million dollars annually in federal funding, a key source of funding for the county’s homeless services. 

Executive summary and full report of the 2018 Homeless Count.pdf

Not enough affordable housing and the limited housing assistance programs have exacerbated the current housing crisis and the homeless population. Foreclosures and wild fires have also increased the number of people who experience homelessness in Sonoma County.

Homeless under Hwy 101 ramp in Santa Rosa. iPhone shot.

If you are poor, an illness, an accident, or a missed paycheck can catapult you to living on the streets

According to the  United States Census Bureau, the national poverty rate in 2016 was 12.7%. There were 40.6 million people in poverty. While the poverty rate has been slowly declining since 2014, a couple of factors account for continuing poverty:

  • Lack of Employment Opportunities
  • Decline in Available Public Assistance 

Other major factors, which can contribute to homelessness, include:

Lack of Affordable Health Care

 – In poor households, a serious illness or disability can start a downward spiral into homelessness, beginning with a lost job, depletion of savings to pay for care, and eventual eviction.

Domestic Violence

– Women often have to choose between being battered and homelessness.

Mental Illness

– Many in the homeless population suffers from some form of severe and persistent mental illness. There is a long history of deinstitutionalization in the United States. Between 1955 and 1994, roughly 487,000 mentally ill patients were discharged from state hospitals. That lowered the number to only 72,000 patients. 3 States closed most of their hospitals. That permanently reduced the availability of long-term, in-patient care facilities. By 2010, there were 43,000 psychiatric beds available. This equated to about 14 beds per 100,000 people. 

As a result, 3.5 million of the severely mentally ill do not receive any psychiatric treatment at all. About 200,000 of those who suffer from schizophrenia, depression, or bipolar disorder are homeless. []


– The relationship between addiction and homelessness is complex and controversial. Many people who are addicted to alcohol and drugs never become homeless, but people who are poor and addicted are clearly at increased risk of homelessness.

Natural Disasters

- Case in point is the wild fires in our County which have become constant since Oct 2017 .

Chronic Homelessness

The Chronic homeless are people who have experienced homelessness for at least a year — or repeatedly — while struggling with a disabling condition such as a serious mental illness, substance use disorder, or physical disability.

On a single night in January 2019:

There were 96,141 homeless individuals with chronic patterns of homelessness. That is 24 percent of the total population of homeless individuals.

65 percent of chronically homeless individuals were living on the street, in a car, park, or other location not meant for human habitation. [source]

2020 Affordable Housing Needs Report

The  SONOMA COUNTY 2020 Affordable Housing Needs Report,  published in May 2020, researched and written by Danielle M. Mazzella and Lindsay Rosenfeld attests to all these factor via data and graphs. ( See link to downloadable full report below)


16,825 low-income renter households in the county do not have access to an affordable home. 

Low-Income Housing Tax Credit production and preservation in Sonoma County increased by 8% since 2016 while state production and preservation decreased 13%. 

77% of extremely low-income households are paying  more than half of their income on housing costs compared to just 2% of moderate income households. 

Renters in Sonoma County need to earn $34.31 per hour — 2.3 times the City of Petaluma minimum wage — to afford the average monthly asking rent of $1,784. 

In Sonoma County, state funding decreased 27% while federal funding increased 84% for housing production and preservation from FY 2008-09 to FY 2018-19.

Funding for Housing.Image: Sonoma Housing Needs Report 2020


In Sonoma County, state funding decreased 27% while federal funding increased 84% for housing production and preservation from FY 2008-09 to FY 2018-19.


Who can afford to Rent? Image: Sonoma Housing Needs Report 2020

Renters need to earn 2.3 times minimum wage to afford the average two-bedroom asking rent in Sonoma County.


In addition to critical COVID-19 efforts, the Partnership calls on State leaders to take the following actions to provide relief to low-income families struggling with unaffordable and unstable housing:

• Make permanent the $500 million annual increase to the California Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program to jump-start affordable housing production and provide an additional $100 million annually to rehabilitate existing affordable rental properties.

• Create a new Affordable Housing Preservation Tax Credit to preserve existing affordable housing at risk of conversion and to fight displacement pressures.

• Streamline Department of Housing and Community Development rental housing funding programs through a single application and award process to reduce development costs.

• Reduce the threshold for voter approval of local funding of affordable housing and infrastructure from 67 percent to 55 percent as was done for educational facilities in 2000.

• Exempt supportive housing and affordable housing funded by  MHP,  HOME or CDBG   from CEQA  reviews.

• Allow affordable housing to be built by right on land currently zoned for commercial or public uses and on church-owned lands.

READ the full Sonoma County 2020 Affordable Housing Needs Report and Data Sources & Notes



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