SAN FRANCISCO — Twenty hotels in have applied for California’s Homekey program in the Bay Area, which allocated $100 million to turn hotels and motels into permanent housing for the homeless. None of the applicants are in San Francisco.
The Homekey program, announced by Governor Newsom on June 30, provides $600 million in total funding to be distributed throughout California counties and cities to purchase and convert hotels, motels, vacant apartment buildings, residential care facilities, and other tiny houses into permanent homeless shelters. An additional $300 million will also be distributed for general homelessness support, potentially for upkeep of the Homekey project.
Applications for the Homekey program are due August 13, the allocated federal money must be spent by the end of the year, and after being accepted into the Homekey program the property must be occupied within 90 days.
“We’ve long dreamed about scooping up thousands of motel rooms and converting them into housing for our homeless neighbors,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. “The terrible pandemic we’re facing has given us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to buy all these vacant properties, and we’re using federal stimulus money to do it.”
Officials in the Homekey process told the San Francisco Chronicle the main challenge they are facing is identifying buildings that fit the timeline and budget of the program. Buildings with in-unit restrooms, disabled access, and a price tag within budget are all necessary for a potential applicant.
The Homekey program was based off the Roomkey program, which resulted in 15,678 hotel and motel rooms statewide available for California’s homeless population.
The program comes in the midst of a city wide effort to move the homeless population of San Francisco into flexible and permanent housing. On July 9 San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced the transition of hundreds into flexible housing. On June 30 Breed announced a lease for 145 units of housing for homeless and formerly homeless households.
San Francisco’s program to lease shelter in place hotel rooms for homeless people and essential workers was announced on August 6 to be phased out. Although the 2,600 rooms under contract will continue to be used through June 2021.