Regional planning officials on Nov. 2 awarded $5 million to Lift to Rise to expand its collaborative effort to encourage the construction of new affordable housing in the Coachella Valley.
The funding from the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) will be added to We Lift: The Coachella Valley’s Housing Catalyst Fund, a pool of money providing flexible, low-interest loans for developments addressing the community priority of increasing the local supply of affordable housing. This $5 million investment was the maximum SCAG awarded. It is being matched with an additional $5 million contribution from the Low Income Investment Fund and Rural Community Assistance Corp, bringing the catalyst fund to a total of $46 million in revolving assets available to spur new projects. As loans are repaid, money is re-loaned within the community, meaning this $5 million will be used over and over again to build equitable and affordable housing options in the Coachella Valley.
Since it began in 2021, We Lift: The Coachella Valley’s Housing Catalyst Fund has helped finance the construction of more than 600 affordable housing units. This new funding will be rapidly deployed to several affordable projects ready to receive loans and support more than 250 units of affordable housing. The SCAG Regional Council voted Nov. 2 to approve the award.
“We are grateful to the leadership from municipalities across Southern California who make up SCAG for recognizing the impact that innovative ideas like the Coachella Valley’s Housing Catalyst Fund are having in addressing the current housing crisis,” said Lift to Rise CEO Heather Vaikona. “This award is the result of three years of advocacy from more than 70 dedicated local partners, thousands of community residents, and the leadership of Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia. It demonstrates the grit and determination of our coalition.”
We Lift: The Coachella Valley’s Housing Catalyst Fund is designed to rapidly jumpstart affordable housing production and address two significant regional challenges. The first is the high cost of housing for working and lower-income families. The second is the way California’s affordable housing funding streams have prioritized coastal and metropolitan areas over inland and rural communities like the Coachella Valley.
In 2022, the catalyst fund received $15 million from the state of California through a budget allocation secured by Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia of Coachella. Garcia this week expressed gratitude for the additional resources now coming to the Coachella Valley.
“In response to our urgent calls for aid three years ago, California placed housing dollars in a regional planning fund with the intention and commitment to us to support the Coachella Valley’s Housing Catalyst Fund,” Garcia said. “Our regional advocacy continued to secure $15 million from the state budget for this initiative. Now this $5 million SCAG award fulfills the promised funding agreement. We are grateful to deliver a combined $20 million in state resources to accelerate the construction of local affordable housing.”
We Lift: The Coachella Valley Housing Catalyst Fund is a partnership between Lift to Rise, the Low Income Investment Fund, Rural Community Assistance Corp., and Riverside County. The catalyst fund is a key component of the Lift to Rise collaborative’s 10-year goal of seeing 10,000 new units of affordable housing built in the Coachella Valley by 2028. That amount of affordable housing will decrease the number of rent-burdened valley residents by 30 percent. Two-thirds of households in the Coachella Valley are rent-burdened, meaning they pay more than one-third of their income for rent.
“These additional funds will leverage the existing $2 million county investment in the Coachella Valley’s Housing Catalyst Fund to support more quality, affordable housing for our county’s vulnerable population,” said Mike Walsh, Assistant Director for the Riverside County Department of Housing and Workforce Solutions. “Placed-based public-private partnerships like the catalyst fund have proven to be successful in addressing local affordable housing needs, and Riverside County is proud to be an active partner in the network of organizations and residents working to give every person in the county a safe, stable home.”
The $5 million to Lift to Rise is part of $45 million SCAG awarded to 14 applicants working on innovative finance strategies to increase housing supply, choice, and affordability, particularly among vulnerable populations and those experiencing homelessness. Lift to Rise’s application was supported with letters from all nine Coachella Valley cities, the Riverside County Department of Housing and Workforce Solutions, the Lift to Rise Resident Leadership Table, the Coachella Valley Association of Governments, Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, Assemblymember Greg Wallis, and Riverside County Supervisor V. Manuel Perez.