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San Diego County votes to move forward on hotel purchases for homeless housing

The Board of Supervisors voted in favor of partnering with the city to apply for state funds from Project Homekey, which requires a ‘Housing First’ approach.

SAN DIEGO — The County of San Diego is partnering with the City of San Diego in an effort to buy four hotels that could help put a roof over people’s heads. The Board of Supervisors took up the issue at their meeting Tuesday. 

“What’s really important to me on this is that it’s the creation of permanent, affordable housing and I think that’s going to really help our most vulnerable population,” said Chairwoman Nora Vargas, voicing her support for the acquisition. 

But not everyone was in favor of the plan. 

“As a county entity, I think we should really be focusing our money on treatment and services, not on taxpayer hotels as homeless housing that does not require treatment,” said Supervisor Jim Desmond.  

Pushing back on the notion that these types of programs don’t yield positive results, Vargas shared her observations. 

“When people don’t have access to housing and comprehensive resources and be able to have the continuum of care, they have a harder time trying to address some of the health concerns that they have,” said Vargas. 

The Board of Supervisors voted 3-1 in favor of partnering with the City of San Diego to apply for state funds from Project Homekey, which requires a ‘Housing First’ approach. Wrap around services would be readily available, but not required.

“Look, if it would work, I’d be all for it. I want to help people get off the streets just like anybody else,” said Mayor Bill Wells of El Cajon. “We’ve seen the state of California spend $10 billion dollars. They’ve increased the number of housing units for homeless people by 35%, but we’ve seen a 48% increase in the number of people that are homeless, so it’s pretty obvious that the Housing First model just doesn’t work.” 

The hotels in Mission Valley, Murphy Canyon, and the Midway District would provide 320 units for more than $150 million dollars, averaging more than $475,000 per unit.

“If you want people off the sidewalk, this is a great way to do it. The cost is lower than building from ground up and they’re done so much quicker because you already have almost everything that you need there,” said Michael McConnell, who has long been an advocate for homeless solutions.   

“When these open, you’re going to see hundreds of people off the street. Now is it going to make a dent? No, because we have thousands of people on the street, so we can’t just depend on buying these hotels, we have to do a lot of things.” 

They will be applying for $88 million dollars from Project Homekey in state funding, while the City of San Diego and the county would each chip in $32 million. If state funding is approved, they could be closing escrow on the hotels by the end of October, and after renovations, people may be moving in sometime next year. 

WATCH RELATED: Homeless advocates to protest citywide encampment ban (May 2023).







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