Opinion: California’s Project Homekey is an untold success story - LifeMoves Skip to main content
“LifeMoves is proud to be part of California’s HomeKey initiative and gratified to see a positive impact on our Bay Area communities. Thank you to Sen. Nancy Skinner (representing East Bay communities in the 9th Senate District), the Senate Housing Committee Chairs and Jamie Almanza, CEO of Bay Area Community Services, for highlighting this important program.
Mercury News

State transition program for homeless has funded nearly 60 Bay Area developments, creating 4,150 housing units

In recent months, a prevailing news narrative has questioned the benefits of the investments California has made to address our state’s homelessness crisis. Our own eyes, as we continue to see people living in cars and tents on our streets and sidewalks, seem to validate this narrative, despite the state and local efforts we know have been made to address the crisis. 

But what this news narrative overlooks is an untold story, the story of how one of California’s primary initiatives — Homekey, which quickly transitions unsheltered people into supportive or permanent housing — has been a remarkable success.

In the Bay Area, currently funded Homekey developments are projected to house 45,000 formerly unsheltered residents, many of whom will live in their Homekey unit permanently or for a temporary period before transitioning to permanent housing. To date, Homekey has financed nearly 60 housing developments in the nine-county Bay Area, creating 4,150 housing units for formerly unsheltered individuals and families. 

In fact, without Homekey, tens of thousands more Californians would be living on our streets. Instead, an estimated 167,000 Californians will benefit from one of the 250 housing projects funded by Homekey statewide. Those 250 developments have created or will soon create a total of 15,319 units of housing, which will in many cases be a permanent home for our previously unhoused neighbors.

To be sure, there is no denying that homelessness continues to be a top issue facing our state. There are many reasons for that, including the fact that we Californians have failed for decades to build enough housing. It’s also worth noting that pandemic-era state and local tenant protections, which kept people housed, have now expired, leading to a recent wave of evictions and newly homeless residents.

Project Homekey began as a main feature of California’s COVID response to utilize vacant motels and other residential properties to get people off the streets, both temporarily and permanently, to reduce the risk of COVID transmission. The program’s success spurred additional state investments and put the focus squarely on acquiring permanent housing units for those in our communities who otherwise would have no roof over their heads.

Project Homekey works by awarding grants to local governments, community agencies and nonprofits who then purchase properties, such as hotels and motels, and quickly turn them into housing units for unsheltered Californians. Homekey also includes the purchase of single-family homes, multifamily apartments, adult residential facilities, manufactured housing and converted commercial properties and other existing buildings to then provide ongoing housing.

Oakland-based nonprofit Bay Area Community Services (BACS) has completed several Homekey projects, purchasing 22 single-family homes and three former motels, creating 272 units of housing in Berkeley, Oakland and Hayward as part of its Project Reclamation initiative.

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