ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. — As the year winds down, Orange County leaders are planning for the next chapter in an enduring statewide problem: homelessness.
The county has enjoyed millions in funding for new projects, including reclamation efforts of old hotels and land purchases for new homes that will benefit the homeless or people at risk of homelessness. Key funding has come from Project Homekey, an initiative to buy up old properties, usually hotels and motels, and convert them into affordable housing or permanent supportive housing for people with registered disabilities.
The California Department of Housing and Community Development awarded the $1.4 billion in funds. Cities have largely funded their portion of housing projects with federal money, as general fund money can be difficult to set aside for public housing. Cities like Irvine and Costa Mesa have also invested in rent protection funds to prevent people from getting behind on their rent and some other bills.
While money has flooded into affordable housing programs from the American Rescue Plan and other sources, there’s concern over what happens when the money dries up.
But county officials, in a recent meeting, expressed optimism that the sentiment toward affordable housing had thawed. Recent research out of the University of California, Irvine shows that affordable housing projects do not hurt home values, a study city officials in Irvine have brandished at City Council meetings.
Affordable housing projects are numerous, with even seasoned housing experts losing track of the total number. Irvine-based Jamboree Housing Corporation alone had overseen 10 projects in each of the past two years.
Here are some key projects around Orange County.
The city, along with Orange County and Jamboree Housing, applied for three projects, representing a total of $28.1 million. The city wants to convert the Tahiti Motel and Stanton Inn and Suites into affordable housing with 132 new units. With another $6 million in funding on top of an initial $23 million from the Homekey program, Orange County intends to buy the former Riviera Motel in Stanton. That project is planned for permanent supportive housing, which allows the county to house disabled homeless people, like some of the more than 230 homeless veterans recorded in the 2022 point-in-time count. Twenty out of 39 units would go toward people at risk of homelessness, nine toward people with mental health needs and 10 for veterans.
Construction on a new affordable housing project broke ground in June at 18431 Beach Blvd. Also shepherded by Jamboree Housing, the new structure will be four stories tall and get 33 seniors out of homelessness, plus nine units will be set aside for low-income seniors. The total cost of the project, which is expected to open in late 2023, will be $30 million. The 0.78-acre lot near 5 Points will include a 2,300-acre outdoor area and pet park.
The city and its partners just celebrated the opening of a new apartment complex called the Bungalows, which includes eight units, a small step toward what city officials ultimately think will be needed. With city and partner money, the complex totaled $5 million — $900,000 of which came from Costa Mesa. Orange County has been looking for projects to invest in and recently awarded the city and its partners $2.5 million to develop 40 units at a local Motel 6.