A partnership of the City of Sonoma and the nonprofit organization Friends in Sonoma Helping (F.I.S.H.) for rental assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic helped 233 local families and individuals during the months of May – July.
Eighty percent of those assisted through the rental assistance partnership live and/or work in the City of Sonoma, while the others live in the Valley and work in the local tourism and agriculture economy.
The City’s contribution of more than $151,000 came from the Housing Trust Fund, which was established in May 2019 for the dedicated purpose of supporting housing for low and moderate income households. The Housing Trust is currently funded by a Council-designated portion of the transient occupancy tax (TOT) paid on overnight stays at hotels and other short-term lodging in the City.
In May of this year, in response to the length and breadth of the public health and economic crisis, the City Council voted to modify the Housing Trust guidelines to allow the funds collected to date to be used for rental assistance to help keep low income people in their housing during the emergency.
The City partnered with F.I.S.H. to process applications and distribute assistance to qualifying households. F.I.S.H. has a long track record of providing support for Sonoma Valley residents in need including food, clothing, rides to medical appointments, and utility and rental assistance, among other services. The F.I.S.H. rental assistance program provides 50% of the rent up to $1,000 as a subsidy.
The Housing Trust funded more than 60% of rental assistance provided by FISH during the months of May through July. The average assistance provided was about $650 per approved applicant. FISH executive director Sandy Piotter updated the City Council at the September 9th Council meeting, stating “It has been a wonderful partnership and we appreciate the vote of confidence that we could be the vehicle to get the money to the people in need.” View the presentation at the Council Meeting video (presentation begins at 37:00).