POSSIBILITIES FOR THE UNHOUSED
Part two of our November 7 Homeless Committee meeting recap
At the November 7 Homeless Committee meeting, Committee Member Andrea Keller presented a preliminary list of options for the unhoused created in collaboration with Planning Commission member Jessica Cure. Since Committee meetings are not available online, we thought this was worth sharing. Thanks to Committee Member Keller for supplying us with the slides, which we’ve paired with a transcript of her remarks from the meeting.
Per Committee member Keller via email:
This slide deck is the result of a meeting I had with Commissioner Cure to discuss potential initiatives for 29. As a committee we are tasked with exploring options of all types, from temporary to long-term solutions. I have previous experience with Homekey (1) and so was asked to see whether a significant-scale Homekey project might be possible in 29 Palms.
The purpose of these slides was only to let the commission know what we were exploring and to see if there were questions or concerns before we proceed with our research.
The result of the meeting was that we were asked to present 2 potential solutions in our report to compare timelines and cost: 1. Adaptive Reuse of an existing hotel as outlined here, and 2. New build of the same number of affordable units. This will help the commission understand the cost implications of affordable housing solutions so that we can see what is possible and sustainable in 29.
The actual work outlined in this deck is to be done in December and will be presented in January 2024.
Andrea Keller: Looking at the cost of providing services—if we have a transitional shelter, where we have security guards, let's say a family shelter requires a cafeteria with two meals a day or we have counselors. It's a higher cost in an ongoing fashion for 29. So we were looking at, you know, kind of the furthest end of the spectrum, which is permanent affordable housing, which would be something down in the $300 to $400 [rent per month] range where someone could make a standard income in Twentynine Palms and not have to become homeless in the first place.
So we're looking at preventative measures and to add to affordable housing stock in the City. This shows that a shelter bed does have a significant cost burden. Some of this, of course, would be borne by the State, but there is a higher cost. This is not to say that 29 should not have shelters in place—that's certainly part of the overall matrix that we've talked about. We've looked at some temporary measures that are easy to implement. You're choosing to look at affordable housing because this could take several years. And so even if we engaged in a HomeKey Project, it might take three to four years, so that why it’s good to start looking at it now.
AK: This is part of a study for Orange County that shows that over time, affordable housing does save money for the City in a big way. It saves on security, it saves on medical, and there are lots of studies to back this up. Again, this is a local example. The sheriff spoke to us about people sliding into drug use after a certain amount of time. But if homelessness can be prevented, or it can be very temporary…and there's this kind of critical window of making sure that people don't become homeless in the first place.
Our other concern is keeping kids in school, making sure that they have laundry facilities, that they can keep up their attendance to school and understanding that education is the best possible economic thing — that every dollar spent on education saves $7.00.
AK: Here's data from the City of Twentynine Palms from the census. Almost 20% of Twentynine Palms lives in poverty, California average is 12.3% and the national average is 11.5%. 71.75% of households in Twentynine Palms are renters. And the average per capita income is $23,325. It's important to look at the facts to know what people can spend and what are our targets are.
AK: There are 199 units currently for affordable housing, homes. These are on the registry, and this is based on people not spending more than 30% of their income on rent and utilities. There's an estimate that 47.4% of Twentynine Palms renters are overburdened, so that means they're spending more than 30% of their income on housing.
AK: Table HS-50 outlines the State’s objectives for Twentynine Palms for the period of 2022 to 2029. Hoping that by 2030, that we have managed to add 1,000 units of housing, and you can see that there's various levels. So when we're looking at affordable housing solutions, some of these may be extremely low, very low, low moderate.
AK: Looking at adaptive reuse versus new buildings, is that in some of these motel projects, depending on the size, you can address various income levels and start to reduce some of these numbers going forward. This is academic without knowing whether these are for sale or available or what the cost would be.
And I've worked on some of these (conversions) myself. So first, my background is having done adaptive reuse for Project Homekey for hotels, currently in the City of El Monte. So that's where part of this is coming from. There's lower construction costs because the structure is there, the roofs are there, there's an existing funding system. Some of these also have plumbing to the rooms so you can easily have a kitchenette. They're already divided for small occupancies, whether that's 200 or 300 square feet, it's already set up for small apartments. Many of these motels are already in commercial areas, and they're close to available services — Rite Aid, Stater Brothers, markets, etc.
AK: This is a list of all of the existing motels in Twentynine Palms, and I believe these are the ones that are open. So there are many examples we started compiling. And we will create a list that we will present of cities that have done this, what it cost, how it works, what time it took and realistically what the result was. And so there's a lot of this going on right now. So our hope is to explore this and see if it's realistic, feasible, if this is a solution that could apply.
AK: Here's an example of types of floor plans that could be created — these could be quite regional in their design. They could be very soft, welcoming, very much desert architecture. It doesn't have to be painted orange to be affordable housing. This could be really an elevated experience, but our goal is exploring something that could be you know, elegant. Beautiful for young families, for the kids, for citizens of 29.
Per the State website Homekey is an opportunity for state, regional, and local public entities to develop a broad range of housing types, including but not limited to hotels, motels, hostels, single-family homes and multifamily apartments, adult residential facilities, manufactured housing, and to convert commercial properties and other existing buildings to permanent or interim housing for the target population.
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