2019 Affordable Housing Advisory Council Annual Report
Report From The Chair
As we go to press with this 2019 Affordable Housing Advisory Council Annual Report, it is April 29, 2020. The entire country is in the grip of an utterly unprecedented public health emergency: the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic. Those of us in the business of serving the underserved and the most vulnerable people in our communities must now steel ourselves to peer around the corner of the immediate crisis, and anticipate what comes next.
We know it will be harsh: this pandemic is already being compared to the Great Depression, with the burden falling most heavily on those who already struggle to get through the month, and keep a roof over their heads, on the wages of our largely service-based economy. The media is rightly lauding the essential frontline workers of our society, especially the healthcare professionals. But until the present crisis, the vital work of janitors and trash collectors, grocery shelf stockers and back-of-the-house restaurant workers, farm workers and meat packers, bus drivers and train operators, child minders and housekeepers, the gig workers, and so very many unseen others has seldom, if ever, been in the spotlight as it is now.
Restaurants and hair salons are closed. Many grocery store shelves are sometimes bare, with certain staples hard to find at any price. Food banks are overrun, with lines of cars backed up for miles, full of people who never expected they would need to queue for the most basic of necessities – bread and milk, canned soup, fresh meat and produce on a good day. Meanwhile, crops meant for schools and restaurants have been ploughed over in the field for lack of distribution plans. Supply chains are disrupted and many of the volunteers who normally keep charitable enterprises humming are sheltering in place instead of manning the distribution and service centers.
If the financial devastation of the pandemic takes root in a nation already beset by income inequality, and transfers more wealth upward, the ground lost by lower-income people will be extremely hard to make up. Housing insecurity can only be exacerbated by this pandemic. And while low- to moderate-income wage earners may get some measure of relief for their financial losses, the situation of those who have no income to speak of are now made exponentially more precarious – and dangerous. A crowded homeless shelter or a derelict SRO hotel can provide no protection at all against an invisible, highly contagious virus. Unhoused people, many with underlying medical conditions, remain on the street, doing their best to practice social distancing in makeshift tents on otherwise empty streets, as better-off people are sheltering in more comfortable spaces.
A force of nature, combined with a weak governmental response, has changed most major aspects of how we conduct our daily lives. The staying power of some of these changes is unknowable. But we know that the work that we do together, day in, day out, year after year, is going to be more essential than at any other time in recent memory.
We will be challenged to find new ways to solve old problems, to mitigate the devastating social and economic consequences of the pandemic for the same people we work together to serve in the best of times: lower-income families and individuals struggling to find a safe and stable place to call home, a shelter for the night, or the means to buy a home of their own, along with people, populations, and whole communities that lack equitable economic opportunity.
RELIEF, RECOVERY, AND RESILIENCE
A little over a year ago, in March 2019, disaster recovery and resilience was on the agenda of the Joint Meeting of FHLBank San Francisco’s Board of Directors and Affordable Housing Advisory Council. Following a presentation by Margaret Van Vliet from the Sonoma County Community Development Commission, Directors and Advisory Council members formed roundtables where discussion focused on either housing or economic development issues related to disaster recovery. The overarching theme of these discussions was how disasters exacerbate existing problems, specifically:
- After the initial impact of losing housing and/or small businesses to a disaster, there is a second wave of crisis encompassing unwelcome rent increases, home price increases, evictions, decreased labor participation, and mass population exodus.
- Displacement of individuals/families/small business is more acute after a disaster.
- Construction costs increase with contractor and subcontractor labor shortages.
- Insurance proceeds for rebuilding are inadequate to the task.
- Historical systems of land use, financing, entitling, and constructing homes standing in the way of rebuilding at the pace required.
- Scarce resources are also needed for repair and replacement of infrastructure.
- Low-income residents are often the most affected, exacerbating economic and racial disparities.
The information and insights shared at the Joint Meeting will be helpful as we move forward to meet the wholly unexpected challenges of the pandemic and its economic fallout.
The Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco’s Affordable Housing Program (AHP) and other community and economic development tools and resources are designed to help mitigate unequal economic opportunity and a relentless shortage of affordable housing in Arizona, California, Nevada, and other states where the Bank’s member financial institutions do business. The Bank’s Affordable Housing Advisory Council (Advisory Council) is pleased to present this annual report, which describes how the Bank’s Community Programs and related activities contributed to expanding access to affordable housing and economic opportunities in 2019.