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Project Homekey Looks to Help Homeless with Housing

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Project Homekey Looks to Help Homeless with Housing

San Bernardino County is submitting applications for grants to fund the purchase and rehabilitation of properties that will be converted into interim or permanent housing for many of our most vulnerable homeless residents.

The grants will be awarded under the state of California’s $600 million “Project Homekey” initiative to help counties and cities secure housing for those at high risk for serious illness from COVID-19. The federal Coronavirus Aid Relief Fund is providing $550 million for the program, with the remaining $50 million coming from the State’s general fund. Approximately $60 million has been earmarked for five Southern California counties: San Bernardino, Ventura, Orange, Riverside, and Imperial. (Los Angeles and San Diego counties are being targeted separately.)

“This new program will build on the success of Project Roomkey, which provided temporary housing to our most vulnerable residents — not only protecting them, but also promoting public health by reducing spread of the virus in the community,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Curt Hagman. “We are excited about the potential to offer a more long-term solution to this formidable challenge.”

The County is currently investigating suitable properties that it hopes to acquire and renovate, with a goal of securing permanent housing for up to 100 households in the first round of the initiative.

To be awarded a Project Homekey grant, the County must meet several requirements, including the development team’s experience and capacity to acquire and operate the properties, the ability to show how the project will serve target populations and address racial equities, and the extent to which the County can demonstrate the project’s favorable community impact.

Another critical requirement: the County must be able to actually disburse the funds by December 30, 2020. Fortunately, the program includes elements to help expedite the process. For example, hotel conversions are exempt from environmental review — a locally controlled process that could otherwise delay construction for two and a half years, according to a Legislative Analyst’s Office report.

“Homekey is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to massively expand housing for the homeless in California with federal stimulus funds,” said Governor Gavin 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.”

(County of San Bernardino news release)

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