Tia Boatman Patterson, a former top aide to state Assembly speakers Karen Bass and Fabian Núñez, and chief consultant to the Assembly Committee on Housing and Community Development, became executive director of the California Housing Finance Agency in August.
In her first two months on the job, Boatman Patterson faced protesters who marched through an agency board meeting, saying the agency’s Keep Your Home California program hadn’t acted quickly enough to distribute $2 billion in federal funds to help struggling homeowners.
She also has spurred an initiative to find innovative ways of building low-cost single-family homes as construction costs rise.
Here are some excerpts of her recent conversation with The Bee.
Tell us a little about your background.
I was sworn in on Aug. 8. My first day on the job was Aug. 11. I believe I was able to hit the ground running. I had served on the CalHFA board as (an Assembly) speaker’s appointee, so I was well aware of the agency’s finances and organization.
I graduated from McGeorge School of Law (in Sacramento), and I’ve been working in affordable housing and finance since 1997. I was on the legislative staff for a number of years. I worked for a legislative committee that dealt with housing. I was general counsel with the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency (starting in 2009), the government entity that provides professional housing staff to the city and county of Sacramento.
Why affordable housing?
I was raised by a single mom in the Central Valley. We lived in public housing until I was in sixth or seventh grade. That was in the 1970s, when the Legislature let single women get home loans (by forbidding banks from denying credit because of gender or marital status). She was able to move out of public housing and buy her own home. My mom obtained home ownership, and I remember the stability that gave us. That’s where my passion comes from in doing what I do.
What do you see as some of the agency’s most important functions? Specifically, how is CalHFA helpful to low- and moderate-income families?
We’re the state’s affordable housing bank. We offer low-interest home loans to moderate-income families and to developers of multifamily housing, so that we can have rent that’s available to the working class and safe, sanitary, decent housing. CalHFA was created in 1975 when the governor (Jerry Brown) was the governor the first time. Over that time, on the homeownership side, the agency has helped more than 155,000 families purchase homes. If you were to put a dollar figure to that, it would be $19.3 billion in lending. With apartments, we have 500 developments in our portfolio where we have provided financing of about $2 billion to construct 36,000 affordable rental units.
Where do you see opportunities for improvement in the agency?
When I first stepped in, we did an organizational assessment. My predecessor (Claudia Cappio, whom Brown appointed as director of the state Department of Housing and Community Development) and the governor are big on collaboration (between state agencies). HCD and CalHFA have always worked well together, but we’re adding more collaborative partnerships (such as with the state Department of Veterans Affairs, to provide more affordable multifamily housing.) In California, many veterans are at risk of homelessness.
Critics, including the recent protesters, have said the agency’s Keep Your Home California program has been too slow in helping homeowners with the $2 billion it received from federal government. How do you respond?
I met with the protesters (from the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment) on Oct. 8. At the initial protest (on Sept. 16), when they showed up at our board meeting, they had a list of demands. We posted their demand letter on our website (calhfa.ca.gov, under the board meeting’s calendar) and posted a letter responding to their concerns.
The bottom line is we’re continually collecting data and evaluating the program for changes. Keep Your Home California staff has done a tremendous job helping 50,000 families with $860 million in mortgage assistance. We still have money (about $1 billion) available.
One of their critiques is that we’re not spending the money fast enough. There’s spending money and spending appropriately. We’re always balancing spending effectively and appropriately and putting money out. When the program started, lenders had to match the program assistance dollar for dollar. We found they weren’t willing to do that, and eliminated the requirement and picked up a lot more people. We doubled our assistance (limit per household) from $50,000 to $100,000 in mortgage assistance. They said we haven’t done enough community outreach. We’ve participated in 630 community events since the program’s inception. We will continue to get the word out of program changes.
Are there any new efforts you can imagine pursuing in the future?
The agency’s mission is to create and finance progressive housing solutions so more Californians have a place to call home. When you’re thinking of affordable housing in an era of fewer resources, you really do have to think about progressive housing solutions.
One effort we’re working on now is ... partnering with cities and manufactured housing firms to secure land and put manufactured housing on site. Our role would be to come in and finance with low-interest loans for homeowners paired with down payment assistance. The Federal Housing Administration is now allowing financing of manufactured housing on permanent lots. We hope to accomplish multiple goals: community development, neighborhood revitalization, infill housing, transit-oriented development and workforce development. This new manufactured housing creates zero waste during production. I’m really looking at this to help in climate change, too. We’re hoping to have a pilot project within the next year. The houses could cost $80,000 to build vs. $240,000. Instead of making a house affordable (through government subsidies) you’re building affordable housing.
I’m very excited. I think this is such a wonderful opportunity to bring all the pieces together. Housing is the nexus with so many others things – education, families, infrastructure, economic development. We have the ability to connect the dots.
Call The Bee’s Hudson Sangree, (916) 321-1191.