By Marcus Castro
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – As in larger cities across California, many of the state’s rural communities – including the dozens surrounding Bakersfield – face an increasing need for affordable housing. And while support exists at the state level, advocates say residents are unaware of how to access it.
Merced Barrera is a policy advocate with the non-profit Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability. She explained that a number of families in rural communities including Lamont – a largely agricultural town about ten-miles southeast of downtown Bakersfield – live in dilapidated homes and often struggle with challenges like overcrowding as families grow in size.
“For decades, local agencies have not made these communities a priority,” said Barrera, adding that the communities, in turn, “ have not been applying for state funds that could help alleviate the problem.”
According to Barrera, one source of such funds comes from the state’s Affordable Housing for Sustainable Community Strategy (AHSCS) program, created in 2014 to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in part through the development of more affordable housing closer to areas where people work. Through AHSCS, communities can apply for grants to help improve housing and other related infrastructure.
Barrera says communities will first need to work with a developer who can help make the case to the state for why the funds are needed before submitting an application.
Lamont is currently working on putting an affordable housing plan in place. A community event is scheduled for later this week to allow residents to learn about the program and ways their city can benefit.
The meeting is being sponsored by Lamont Parent Partners, Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, and the developer Americana LLC.
“It’s an application for affordable housing, and, of course, there’s a need in Lamont for more quality affordable housing.”
The event is scheduled for June 8 at 5:30 p.m. at the David Head Center in Lamont and is open to the public.