OC Cities increasingly look to motels to help house the homeless

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Aging and dilapidated motels in towns like Stanton are bought and turned into housing for the homeless in Orange County – from a state fund – in an effort to get more people off the streets .

“We have seven, eight or nine motels in the community that we would eventually like to acquire and convert into permanent supportive housing. As we know, building more affordable housing is a priority in Sacramento. That’s one way to do it, ”Stanton City manager Jarad Hildenbrand said in a telephone interview on Monday.

The motel conversions are part of the Homekey Project – a program funded by state grants to buy motels and turn them into permanent homes for the homeless with on-site support services like mental health services.

Now, Costa Mesa’s motels may soon follow suit as city officials consider turning two properties into affordable housing in a bid to create more housing for low-income people and tackle homelessness.

The efforts also come as many OC cities rethink their approach to how to handle police calls to homeless people experiencing a mental health crisis, with cities like Garden Grove and Huntington Beach contracting with Be Well OC to send mental health workers to calls, instead of police.

Hildenbrand said the process was not cheap, especially the acquisition of the motel.

But, he said, state funding has really helped the city move forward with the transformations.

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During the first phase of the project, County of Orange and Jamboree Housing – one of OC’s largest affordable housing developers – acquired two motels in Stanton which are still in the process of being converted into permanent supportive housing. .

That includes $ 10 million from the state to convert the Stanton Inn and Suites and $ 8 million for the Tahiti Motel on Beach Boulevard, according to a staff report.

[Read: OC Eyes Massive Conversion of Motels into Homeless Housing with Services]

Some of the Beach Boulevard motels converted into homes had been known for years to attract drugs and prostitution.

Now Jamboree and OC Supervisors are requesting the second Homekey funding round to convert the Riviera Motel adjacent to the Tahiti Motel on Beach Boulevard in Stanton into permanent housing as well.

“Between the three projects here, we should have around 152 units,” Hildenbrand said.

At last week’s meeting, Stanton City Council members approved the use of $ 2.5 million in federal COVID rescue money, known as ARPA funds, to help acquire the Riviera Motel partnered with County and Jamboree – both of whom are applying for the Homekey grant to convert the motel.

“I am so excited about this project. The Riviera is one of our more criminal motels in Stanton and we are taking it down to create housing for people who really need it and I think this is the biggest win-win we have done in a while. time, ”City Councilor Carol Warren told The Encounter.

The conversion will also help the city meet its state-mandated housing goals – goals some county city officials have pushed back under pressure from the state to build more housing.

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In nearby Anaheim, city officials are also asking for state motel conversion funding, eyeing the Kona Inn, a 26-room motel on Brookhurst Street and Lincoln Avenue, as well as Studio 6 – a motel from 119 rooms on Harbor Boulevard, according to an email from city spokesman Mike Lyster.

The city will submit funding requests for both projects in January.

In August, the Buena Esperanza affordable housing project opened in Anaheim after the conversion of an Econo Lodge Motel on La Palma Avenue.

The city is also looking to redevelop Beach Boulevard between Lincoln Avenue and Ball Road, a constant source of concern to residents of West Anaheim.

Meanwhile, housing advocates have slammed county municipal leaders for what they describe as allowing the overproduction of expensive housing and the underproduction of low-income units, which they say is fueling the housing crisis. homeless.

As part of their goals, Stanton is to zoning a total of 1,231 new homes over the next eight years, of which 82 are to be for very low income households.

New dwellings created by motel conversions would be considered for these houses.

Stanton and Anaheim aren’t the only cities looking for motels to meet this need.

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Last month, members of the Costa Mesa city council decided to apply to the state’s Project Homekey program and commit $ 3.5 million in federal rescue funds to work with the county, developers and vendors. services to transform two motels in the city into housing for the homeless.

“We are creating a path out of homelessness, we are creating opportunities for people to have more housing to stay in – more affordable housing to stay in,” City Councilor Manuel Chavez said at the meeting of the November 16. “It’s a big step in the right direction to get creative with housing and see where we can find opportunities to create housing so that everyone has a place at the table. “

Councilor Don Harper was the only dissenting vote on council.

“I don’t know the long-term effects of these kinds of developments. They can be very positive, they can be negative. I don’t know, ”Harper said at the meeting.

According to a staff report, city staff predict that the $ 3.5 million to help with conversions will come from federal funds to help fight the Covid.

Officials are considering the Mesa Motel and Motel 6 on Newport Boulevard to be used for the project.

The Mesa Motel is a 46-room motel and would be eligible accommodation for homeless people and couples.

Services there are expected to be provided by the Illumination Foundation, a nonprofit homeless resource group, and Motel Conversion by CW Driver and HomeAid Orange County.

Motel 6 is a 94-room motel and would be used to provide 40 housing units for those at risk or currently homeless and 54 units for low-income seniors 62 and over.

Services would be provided by Mercy House, the operator of the city’s homeless shelters, and the conversion would have to be carried out by community development partners.

The two motel conversions would create 140 low-income housing units that would help the city meet its state-mandated housing goals.

As part of their goals, Costa Mesa is to zoning a total of 11,760 new homes over the next eight years, of which nearly 3,000 are for very low-income households.

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Deputy city manager Susan Price told the meeting that there are 29 motels in the city and they have been relatively underutilized since the pandemic.

“However, service calls seem to be increasing. And so, between 2019 and 2021, our service calls for police and firefighters in motels in our city increased by 70%, ”she said.

Price was the county’s homeless resource manager until she left to work for Costa Mesa early last year.

Price said the city regularly receives calls from residents and motel owners reporting “evidence of narcotics and other harmful activity.”

However, she said the two motels targeted for conversions were on the lower end of nuisance calls.

Mayor John Stephens told the meeting that motel conversions would help eliminate these annoying calls.

County residents have identified housing and homelessness as one of the most important local issues, according to the 2020 Orange County Annual Survey conducted by Chapman University.

Hosam Elattar is a member of Voice of OC Reporting. Contact him @ helattar @ voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.


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