State Provides $600 Million In 'Homekey' Funds To Buy Housing For Homeless

Governor Gavin Newsom talks about Operation Roomkey outside a Northern California hotel used to house the homeless.

Governor Gavin Newsom talks about Operation Roomkey outside a Northern California hotel used to house the homeless.

Governor Gavin Newsom Thursday announced the availability of $600 million in funding for Homekey, which is the new version of California’s Operation Roomkey to provide housing for the homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hotel rooms and trailers bought from the Federal Emergency Management Agency have made up the bulk of the Roomkey spaces. Homekey is run by the California Department of Housing and Community Development, and the Newsom administration expects it to be the largest expansion of housing for homeless people in recent history.It also supposed to continue addressing the health and social service needs of homeless.

The $600 million in grant funding will be made available to counties, cities, and other government entities for the purchase and rehabilitation of hotels, motels, vacant apartment buildings, and other types shelters, so they can be turned into permanent, long-term housing for people who are either living on the streets now or who are at risk of becoming homeless.

"Homekey is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to massively expand housing for the homeless in California with federal stimulus funds," said Governor Newsom. "This unique opportunity requires us to move quickly, in close collaboration with our city and county partners, to protect the most vulnerable people in our state."

Geographic and racial equity have been baked into Homekey, with dedicated funding for various regions and a goal of addressing the deeply inequitable impact of homelessness on Black and Latino communities across California.

Newsom said that $550 million of the $600 million is coming from California’s share of federal Coronavirus Aid Relief Funds, with the remaining $50 million coming from the state’s General Fund.

HCD is expected to begin accepting applications on July 22nd, and the first round of projects should be funded within the first 30 days. All the Homekey money handed out to the cities and counties has to be spent by December 30th of this year.

All the Homekey projects will be fast-tracked because of new legislation signed by the governor that provides a California Environmental Quality Act exemption and automatic zoning compliance for converted hotels, motels, and related projects.

A homeless man makes camp on the street under an I-5 overpass near downtown Sacramento.

A homeless man makes camp on the street under an I-5 overpass near downtown Sacramento.

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