Homelessness crisis initiatives created at the height of the pandemic have lost their spark — many Californians are returning to the streets without any prospects.

From 2019 to 2022, the homelessness population grew 7% and consists of nearly 117,000 Californians in 2022. In March 2020, programs like Project Roomkey secured 16,000 motel and hotel rooms for 55,000 unhoused Californians during the pandemic, according to CalMatters.

In addition to Project Roomkey, the government responded to the growing homeless population with:

  • rental assistance;
  • eviction moratoria; and
  • stimulus checks.

However, as the pandemic effect begins to wear off, these initiatives are losing their momentum.

As of July 2022, the era of eviction moratoria has ended, rental assistance are discontinued, and stimulus checks long ago stopped in 2021. The impact on the number of unhoused Californians has been extreme.

From Project Roomkey, 12,000 people were able to move on from being unhoused to permanent housing, according to CalMatters. However, Project Roomkey has dwindled their program from 16,000 rooms available in 2020 to 5,000 rooms in 2022 — a big cut for such a promising response to the overflow of unhoused individuals at the peak of the pandemic.

Of the 55,000 Project Roomkey participants, 34,000 Californians found shelter in:

  • congregate shelters;
  • temporary housing;
  • institutions; or
  • unknown destinations, according to CalMatters.

With a little less than 10,000 Roomkey participants unhoused, it’s another miss for real estate professionals to gain more clients since these individuals can’t afford housing. The increased number of unhoused Californians means a reduced quality of life for all California residents — an ongoing result of the homelessness crisis.

Related article:

California Comeback Plan to address homeless crisis

New initiatives for the unhoused

Though pandemic initiatives such as Project Roomkey have taken a step back, other initiatives have blossomed from it.

One of the initiatives being Project Homekey (different letter, same idea), a statewide conversion project to provide permanent or interim housing for unhoused individuals. Project Homekey allows developers to convert various housing types into housing for individuals experiencing homelessness, such as:

  • hotels and motels;
  • single family residences and multi-family units;
  • manufactured housing; and
  • commercial properties.

Additionally, Assembly Bill (AB) 2483, a new California law, will require the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) to award incentives to developments financed under the Multifamily Housing Program to include units for individuals experiencing homelessness.

However, no matter how much financial aid these projects receive from the government, it all comes down to the amount of low-income housing available for extremely low-income workers. A greater inventory of quality, low-income housing will translate to more developments able to organically meet the demand of all residents. Where there is a need — as for housing — there needs to be pathways for builders to meet it. Otherwise, the cost of housing rises beyond the financial capabilities of low-income workers. The result is the ongoing homelessness crisis.

More housing but make it possible

Progress is too often thwarted by vocal not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) advocates, who believe low-income housing is just another inconvenience to moderate- and high-income communities.

For NIMBYs, low-income housing ruins communities and neighborhoods — eventually resulting in moderate-income families being “forced” to move out. NIMBYs, more often than not, stall new housing construction and indirectly step in the way of resolving the homelessness crisis.

However, to make strides for affordable housing, NIMBYs, local officials, and real estate professionals — yes, you— need to come together to knock this homelessness crisis down a peg.

Real estate professionals can do their part to help keep home values from deteriorating when low-income housing is introduced by getting involved in the planning process and attending local city council meetings.

Keep yourself updated on legislative steps to address the homelessness crisis by subscribing to firsttuesday’s newsletter, Quilix!

Related article:

The impact of low-income housing on nearby home values