Pictured: Linda Braunschweiger, CEO of Housing Trust Fund Ventura County. Photo submitted

by Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer
nshaffer@timespublications.com

The high cost of living in Ventura County makes it difficult for many people to afford safe and secure housing. The Housing Trust Fund of Ventura County aims to change that. The organization is essentially a nonprofit bank that provides loans to developers creating houses and apartments priced for extremely low-income individuals and families. CEO Linda Braunschweiger answered some questions for the Ventura County Reporter to explain the organization’s role in helping military veterans, the homeless, farmworkers and more obtain safe, clean, reliable housing.

This interview has been edited for space and clarity.

What, in a nutshell, is the Housing Trust Fund?

The Housing Trust Fund Ventura County, a nonprofit bank, is the local trusted leader in helping to increase affordable housing options throughout Ventura County by leveraging public-private partnerships to provide low-cost, flexible loans early in the housing development cycle. We prioritize the funding of affordable housing units for veterans, transitional age foster youth, homeless individuals and families, farmworkers, and low to extremely low income individuals and families.

How did HFT come to exist? 

Housing Trust Fund Ventura County (Housing Trust Fund VC) was created in 2008 as a nonprofit to respond to the needs of affordable housing developments, which often experience funding gaps during the planning or construction phases. By 2016, Housing Trust Fund VC had become a state Certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) and in 2018 it earned its Federal CDFI Certification, receiving financial support from federal, state and county government, including all 10 cities in Ventura County, as well as foundations, private industry and individuals.

Ventura County continues to face a critical housing crisis. The lack of available housing that is affordable in Ventura County is having a negative impact on the quality of life throughout our region. Local home prices and rental rates continue to outpace the incomes of many Ventura County residents. Without housing that is affordable to a range of income levels, Ventura County residents and businesses will continue to suffer from an overcrowding of public infrastructure and services, and a stagnant economy. 

While a regional housing trust fund is not the sole solution to the housing crisis in Ventura County, it is a powerful tool that draws developers and increases the opportunities of residents countywide to access decent, safe, affordable housing. Ensuring our residents can afford the roof over their heads and still have enough money to put food on the table, while meeting other needed expenses, is a goal that Housing Trust Fund Ventura County remains committed to every day.

Tell us about some of the projects HTFVC has accomplished.

Since 2012 Housing Trust Fund VC has funded or committed to fund over $18.7 million in approved loans, $8.825 million in 2021 alone. This has resulted in the production or planned production of 847 affordable apartments and homes throughout Ventura County.

In 2021 we committed $8.825 million in funding for developments, including:

  • 2nd and B Street Homeless Solutions Center in Oxnard. A collaborative project by the City of Oxnard, Community Development Partners, and Mercy House, the Center will provide a 110-bed homeless shelter and 55 affordable housing units. Importantly, this center will be constructed on the first land ever donated by the City of Oxnard to Housing Trust Fund VC’s supportive nonprofit, the newly formed Housing Land Trust Ventura County.
  • Westview Village II in Ventura. This is a project by the Housing Authority of the City of San Buenaventura that replaces the city’s oldest and largest public housing complex with four new development phases spanning 20.6 acres. Westview Village II is the second phase and will specifically provide 50 senior housing units.
  • Veterans Springs in Ventura. A project by A Community of Friends, this multi- and single-family complex will provide 122 new affordable residences for Veterans and their families. 

How many people use HTF’s services? 

Housing Trust Fund VC works directly with both nonprofit and for-profit developers from all over California.  Through our funding and the work of the developers, we estimate that approximately 2,500 individuals have benefited by receiving clean, safe, affordable housing.

 How does HTF carry out its mission?

In this era of limited resources, Housing Trust Funds, like Housing Trust Fund Ventura County, are able to attract capital from sources not traditionally dedicated to housing. They leverage these funds by combining private resources with foundation, corporate, individual, and public agency funds to build a revolving loan fund dedicated to expanding affordable and workforce housing. Housing Trust Fund VC loans are often made early in the development cycle before traditional funding is available and thus provides the financial support and credibility necessary to attract other money.

Since 2012, Housing Trust Fund Ventura County has successfully raised $15.9 million in support of the development of quality affordable housing in our community, including a $4 million Proposition 1 match.

What kinds of fundraising activities does HTF use to bring in money?

Unlike most housing trust funds funded solely through public means, funds supporting Housing Trust Fund VC come from a number of public, private and corporate sources, including:

  • Earned revenue from loan fees and interest.
  • Local government funding from the county of Ventura and all 10 cities in the county.
  • State of California Housing Bond Funds approved by the voters via Proposition 1c and Proposition 1.
  • Federal funds (grants) from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund.
  • Businesses, corporations, foundations and individual donations.
  • The annual Compassion Campaign signature fundraising event.

 How do you find projects to fund?

I work closely with city housing departments, housing professionals, community groups and advocates to find potential opportunities for the development of affordable housing. We have a long-standing reputation among developers who know us to be solid trustworthy partners taking seriously our role of expanding our financial resources through responsible financial stewardship, and we are creative in our pairing of non-traditional funds with flexible financial products that offer below-market interest rates. We work together to ensure Ventura County has the needed housing for everyone who calls our community home.

 What are some of the biggest challenges involved in carrying out HTFVC’s mission?

The sheer size of the need. For at least the last 10 years, California and Ventura County have not built enough housing units to meet the growing needs of our community. Today, Housing Trust Fund VC has a pipeline of potential housing projects seeking over $40 million of Housing Trust Fund VC’s loan funds. We need more lending capital to ensure each of those important affordable housing units are built and become homes for those who need it most. Also, with more lending capital from grants and investments, the Trust Fund can bring back to Ventura County $25 million in matching funds from Sacramento through the Proposition 1 matching funds program. We need those locally who are financially able to help us, match that $25 million in taxpayer dollars, and bring the funds back to Ventura County. We can’t and shouldn’t leave that money on the table in Sacramento when we have such a growing need right here in our county. 

 What are some of the most rewarding aspects of your job?

I love my work! As the founding CEO, I have been able to create, with the Housing Trust Fund VC Board, an entity that is creative, nimble, flexible, solid, valued and, best of all, seeks to provide homes for all. Watching an individual or family receive the keys to their new, safe, clean housing always makes me emotional. The trajectory of that person’s life is changed forever. There is a newfound confidence within each resident as I watch them walk taller, exude pride, and see a future for themselves and their family that allows them to dream bigger.

 What are some things you wish people knew about HTFVC that they probably don’t?

Every person, no matter their heritage, financial means, education level, work status, a family of one or more, healthy or unwell, have the same desire to feel safe, secure and comfortable in their home.  The success of our individual communities hinges on every resident having a voice and equal say in how the collective community thrives.  Housing Trust Fund VC believes that having clean, safe, affordable housing is a key component to the success of our community.  By working together, we can tackle this affordable housing crisis and improve our lives now and for generations to follow.

Housing Trust Fund Ventura County, 360 Mobil Ave., Suite 213A, Camarillo, 805-384-1144, www.housingtrustfundvc.org