California Gov. Gavin Newsom visits a Project Homekey site in Los Angeles preparing to house tenants on Aug. 24, 2022. (Courtesy of Office of Governor Gavin Newsom)
California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced $179.7 million in grants Oct. 10 for 710 housing units for the homeless and those at risk across seven counties throughout the state.
The funding represents the third round of so-called Homekey grants—administered by the California Department of Housing and Community Development. The agency has created more than 13,700 units since 2021 including the latest announcement using $736 million.
With this new round of funding, officials are looking to purchase the first homes by the end of the month and to begin constructing new ones by the end of the year in what was described as “an unprecedented effort to build new, free housing for homeless Californians,” according to a press release announcing the funding.
“The state’s homelessness crisis has been decades in the making,” Mr. Newsom said in the press release. “While there’s more work to be done, we are challenging the status quo with new, innovative solutions to get Californians off the streets and into housing.”
The director of the department overseeing the program stressed the importance of such funding.
“Created to respond to an unprecedented public health crisis, Homekey has grown and evolved to house a broader population of Californians at risk of homelessness, including young people transitioning to adulthood from foster care or an unsafe environment,” stated Gustavo Velasquez, director of the housing and community development department in a press release Oct. 10.
Applications submitted by cities, counties, and housing authorities, by the July deadline totaled more than $1.27 billion in proposals, with the agency still reviewing submissions, with more grants to be announced on a “rolling basis until funds are exhausted,” according to the department press release.
No details were provided of money available.
One critic called the move to house the homeless in renovated hotel rooms a political stunt.
“Spending nearly $180 million for 710 homes is ridiculous when these so-called ‘new homes’ are simply converted hotel rooms,” Sen. Brian Dahle (R-Bieber) told The Epoch Times by email Oct. 11. “Newsom’s going to run for president and likes making headlines.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom visits a Project Homekey site in Los Angeles preparing to welcome tenants on Aug. 24, 2022. (Courtesy of Office of Governor Gavin Newsom)
With the program taxpayer-funded, he questioned the efficacy of giving away free housing units.
“Government-run programs aren’t working in California. Billions have been allocated and yet the homeless crisis is getting worse,” Mr. Dahle said. “We need to focus on the private sector, and stop wasting taxpayer dollars. Let’s lead the nation with real results.”
The counties of Fresno, Los Angeles, Modesto, Sacramento, San Buenaventura, and Visalia were all selected in the most recent round of funding.
Housing types allowed include hotel and motel conversions, apartments, commercial building repurposing, and new construction.
The Sacramento area received the largest amount this round—totaling more than $40 million—with $20 million allocated to the county’s housing authority to convert an existing hotel north of downtown into 122 units.
The Housing Authority of the City of Sacramento will also receive nearly $20.4 million for the acquisition and rehabilitation of another existing hotel, again near downtown, creating 69 units.
Los Angeles County was granted more than $34.6 million to acquire and rehabilitate a hotel near Long Beach Airport into 107 studio units.
Construction workers are seen atop a building of new apartments for sale in Alhambra, east of downtown Los Angeles in this file photo. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)
The San Diego Housing Commission received grants for two projects—nearly $4 million for the conversion of an apartment into 13 housing units, and almost $17 million to acquire a Ramada Inn in Pacific Village and convert it into 62 units for homeless and youth at risk.
Officials are additionally working to finalize a contract to facilitate the purchase of small homes at state and local levels, according to the governor’s press release.
Cities and counties will determine eligibility for those who will live in the units. Length of individual leases, and terms and conditions, are set by local jurisdictions, though grant guidelines mandate no rent to be charged for interim or transitional housing, according to the department’s website.
While not a recipient this round, San Jose was awarded more than $51 million in Homekey grants in 2022, and its mayor said the money has greatly benefitted the community.
“Here in San Jose, we’re doing our part to end the era of encampments, but our bold action at the city-level would not be possible without support from the governor who is making a historic investment in what is, without doubt, the largest, most inhumane crisis we face today. We are on-track and moving full-speed ahead,” said Mayor Matt Mahan in the governor’s release.