Making It in the Bay

About $200 Million Becomes Available to Bay Area for More Homekey Projects

Housing generic
NBC Bay Area

Bay Area cities, counties, tribal entities, and housing authorities have the chance this year to apply for an estimated $200 million in grant funds for housing the unhoused following the release of $1.45 billion by the state Thursday.

More money will likely be available next year as part of the state's overall $2.75 billion expansion package for the Homekey program, which provides money to rehabilitate hotels, motels, and other buildings to provide homes for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

The money will allow for the creation of up to 14,000 more permanent, long-term housing units for unhoused Californians or those facing homelessness in the state.

"California is moving with unprecedented speed to house people experiencing homelessness, through Homekey," Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement. "We are going all in on solutions that work - tackling the homelessness crisis head-on with a constructive, compassionate approach and a focus on serving those with the most acute behavioral health needs."

According to county counts of people suffering from homelessness in 2019, more than 26,000 lived in the Bay Area. According to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, roughly 162,000 Californians were experiencing homelessness on any given day as of January 2020.

About 52,000 of those were individuals suffering from chronic homelessness, which is homelessness for a year or longer or someone who has a disability and has had at least four bouts of homelessness in three years.

Homekey has been successful in the Bay Area. In Oakland, for example, a college residence hall was rehabilitated for formerly homeless residents, opening around Christmastime last year. The project was completed more quickly than some people thought possible. Newsom has touted the speed at which Homekey projects are done.

Since July 2020, Homekey has led to the creation of 6,000 affordable housing units statewide, according to Newsom's office. Ninety-four projects across the state closed escrow last year, the governor's office said.

Earlier this year, Newsom signed a housing and homelessness funding package that provided $12 billion to alleviate homelessness in the state.

"This administration has set a goal of functionally ending family homelessness in five years, and that's why investments in programs like Homekey are so critical," said Gustavo Velasquez, director of the state's Department of Housing and Community Development, in a statement.

But Newsom is facing a recall. Election Day is Tuesday. The $12 billion homelessness package was part of his California Comeback Plan, which aims to reverse the effects the COVID-19 pandemic on the state's economy. Newsom has faced criticism by some over the way he has handled the state's response to the pandemic.

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