Two decades ago, some Orange County officials saw the cheap motels that lined Beach Boulevard and other old shopping streets as a growing problem as the poor moved into these cheap mansions. Anaheim officials have targeted motel owners for code enforcement – and cities have passed laws requiring residents to vacate their rooms every 30 days.
Residents were often at a stage of homelessness, and these rules only exacerbated the problem of homelessness as they had nowhere to go. It took a while, but local authorities now see the old motels – leftovers from a bygone tourist era – as a potential solution to the county’s daunting homelessness crisis.
The latest state budget includes funding for the Roomkey project. Launched in 2020 as part of California’s response to COVID-19, the state has funded quarantine of indigent people in motels rather than hospitals. The second phase provides $ 900 million in grants to transform motels into permanent housing and provide social services to residents.
As the registry reported, Costa Mesa is seeking funding to turn two motels on Harbor Boulevard into homeless housing, with the city contributing $ 3.5 million. “I’m a big fan of converting motels to housing because it’s something you can do relatively quickly and create a lot of housing at one time,” a city official told the newspaper.
We agree that this is a good way to deliver large numbers of units quickly. The city will work with two nonprofits, Illumination Foundation and Mercy House, to oversee the conversion. Other cities in the county and state are embarking on a similar approach.
Cost issues are always a concern whenever the government funds housing. A high-profile Los Angeles effort to build homeless housing, for example, cost the absurd sum of $ 746,000 per unit. So far, the data suggests that some of these Project Roomkey assisted living renovations cost a more reasonable $ 120,000 per unit.
We would like to see a greater emphasis on privately funded efforts, but at least the state and Orange County now view these outdated motels as assets rather than liabilities.