California has experienced an alarming spike in homelessness over the past decade, with a significant increase in the number of unsheltered people in our communities. In the most recent official count conducted in 2019, the number of Californians experiencing homelessness had climbed to over 151,000. Though California comprises only 12 percent of the total U.S. population, it is home to 25 percent of the nation’s homeless population; nearly 60 people per day in California became homeless in 2019.
This reality belies substantial efforts by cities and counties to provide supportive housing and other services to those experiencing homelessness, driving home the fact that finding a solution is no simple feat. Fortunately, the recently enacted SB 450 (Chapter 344, Statutes of 2019) may aid cities and counties in their efforts to combat homelessness by encouraging investors to offer temporary housing to those in need, while providing local agencies a novel incentive for remediating certain nuisance properties.
Hotels, motels, and hostels often succumb to blight or abandonment due to their owners’ inability to maintain them. In the face of increasing costs of land and development in California, the cost of investing in such properties can often seem insurmountable to property owners and developers. Thus, far too often, such efforts fall on cities’ shoulders. These properties — which often serve individuals experiencing housing insecurity — become a nuisance for local governments to address. Such properties pose major health and safety hazards to occupants and surrounding communities, disincentivize neighboring economic development, and strain government resources when cities and counties are forced to abate them.
Attempting to offer one innovative solution for two weighty problems, SB 450 allows cities and counties to simultaneously address homelessness and alleviate the costs of remediating dilapidated hotels, motels, and hostels.
If a city is interested in encouraging SB 450 projects within its jurisdiction, the city should take preparatory measures to ensure staff is trained on SB 450’s requirements and adopt guidelines to aid in its implementation.