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The logo for Solutions for Change, a Vista and North County nonproft that addresses homelessness and homeless prevention. Photo via Solutions for Change Facebook
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Vista approves housing agreements with Solutions for Change

VISTA — During Vista City Council’s Dec. 10 meeting, the council approved, 4-1, several housing agreements with Solutions for Change for $2.7 million to assist with its campus expansion.

For more than two decades, the nonprofit Solutions for Change has been a symbol for Vista and North County in addressing homelessness and homelessness prevention.

Solutions for Change has retained Kingdom Development as a co-developer to help with tasks such as obtaining financing.

“There is accountability, not only to the program, but to one another,” Councilman John Franklin said of the program and residents. “It’s about sustainability, it’s about changing lives and it’s about restoring dignity.”

He said the city will eventually be the landowner, after 99 years, while also noting homelessness is one of the council’s top priorities, thus worth the investment.

However, Councilwoman Corinna Contreras voted to approve, but not without apprehension.

“I’m not a big fan of inserting ideological perspectives,” Contreras said. She said she was concerned about previous comments from a Solutions for Change representative criticizing government involvement with addressing homelessness. Contreras said she has reservations if the statement, taken at face value, is true, especially since the city is allocating $2.7 million.

The total cost of the project is more than $43 million, said Councilman Joe Green, who was in favor of the deal. He said the project will be a benefit for the city, noting the track record of Solutions for Change.

Amanda Lee, Vista’s housing programs manager, said if Solutions for Change cannot secure other funding sources by Dec. 31, 2020, then Vista’s money will not be “infused” into the deal.

In 2018, the nonprofit, which focuses on homelessness, requested $2.7 million from the city to purchase two adjacent properties next to its headquarters at 722 W. California Avenue.

Plans call for constructing permanent and transitional housing units, rehabilitating existing units and building an empowerment center.

In addition to Vista’s contribution, Solutions for Change’s funding sources for Parcel 1, which includes 36 permanent units for extremely low- and low-income families, include $19.6 million for low-income housing tax credits and $3.2 million from a San Diego County Innovative Housing Trust Fund loan, Lee said.

The nonprofit is applying for those additional funds and will be notified by June 2020 if it received those sources.

On the second parcel, plans call for major renovations to existing structures, Lee said. Funding for this project calls for applying for $4.6 million in low-income housing tax credits, $5.8 million from the county’s housing trust fund loan and renegotiating loan terms with the cities of Vista, Escondido, San Diego and the state for $4.3 million, to name a few.

Numerous residents and those who are living at Solutions for Change spoke in support of the request from Solutions for Change and its agreement with the city.

James Martell, who lives at Solutions for Change, told the council the program has changed his life. He said he’s been with 13 other programs but said Solutions for Change is by far the best.

Martell urged the council to approve the item so he could remain there, but also to help other families who come in and need those services.

“It will provide more affordable housing, more facilities to educate and empower and more opportunities to move homeless families off the street,” resident Paul Webster said. “It will update and expand a community asset. It has a demonstrated impact of decreasing crime.”

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story included a reference to Councilwoman Amanda Rigby, stating that she noted past transgressions with Solutions for Change. Rigby did not make any such statement during the meeting. The Coast News regrets the error.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Solutions for Change had retained Kingdom Development for construction. An earlier version of this story also incorrectly wrote that Kingdom Development would operate an emergency shelter on site. Solutions for Change will operate the shelter. The Coast News regrets the errors.