Alameda County cities want grant to buy homes for homeless people

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Hoping to replicate the success of a program launched in Oakland in 2020, leaders of four Alameda County cities have agreed to jointly apply for millions of dollars in state grants to purchase about a dozen houses and convert them into permanent supportive housing for homeless people and people earning very low incomes.

Hayward, Union City, Livermore, and Piedmont are partnering with the homelessness prevention nonprofit Bay Area Community Services, and seeking about $12.5 million from the state’s Project Homekey to buy the homes, which could then be renovated lightly to accommodate up to six people each.

If other cities join in on the request, the application amount could rise up to a maximum of $20 million, Union City staff reports said.

While many Project Homekey applications are from a single city or county hoping to purchase and convert a hotel, motel, or other complex into housing for large numbers of people in one place, this joint plan would seek out houses scattered across these cities.

“Creating affordable housing with supportive services for people experiencing homelessness is a priority for the city of Livermore and we’re excited to collaborate with other cities to create a regional program that leverages each other’s strengths while also meeting the unique needs of each city,” Mayor Bob Woerner said in a statement emailed to this news organization Tuesday.

If the state award is granted to these four cities, Bay Area Community Services would aim to create “deeply subsidized co-living environments where each resident gets their own bedroom, shared community living spaces, and access to supportive services to meet their unique needs,” according to a proposal letter from the nonprofit.

In 2020, Bay Area Community Services, using $10 million in Homekey grant money and $5 million in other philanthropic donations, purchased 15 homes and created 129 private rooms in them for homeless people, calling the effort Project Reclamation, as some of the people moving into the homes were from the neighborhoods where they are located.

All four cities have approved the application for the Homekey funds, with the city councils of Union City and Hayward unanimously supporting the plans at their meetings on Tuesday. Livermore and Piedmont also unanimously approved the plans earlier this month.

If the grants are approved by the state, Hayward is hoping to have up to five homes for the project in the city, while Piedmont and Livermore are seeking up to three each, and Union City would be seeking one or two homes, city staff reports from those cities said. However, there are no guarantees homes will be able to be purchased in each city.

The list of potential homes in each city has not been finalized yet, according to Union City staff reports and the proposal letter.

While the plans won’t specifically be seeking out expensive homes, finding homes large enough to accommodate up to six people each in the scorching hot Bay Area housing market will be a challenge, officials said.

“We understand the volatility of the single family market right now,” Grace Streltzov, a housing analyst for Livermore, said Tuesday.

In Hayward, to try to find houses available that cost roughly $900,000, “the majority of prospective homes are located between Interstate 880 and Mission Boulevard,” Hayward’s city staff report said.

Francisco Gomez Jr., the housing and community development manager for Union City, said the cities and nonprofits will be looking for four- or five-bedroom homes “that are move-in ready,” with minimal rehab needed to create private living spaces for residents.

“We’re looking for homes where we can get them, and we’re looking for good properties that really fit the criteria for us,” he said.

Even with a solid amount of state funding, the cities will be competing with other buyers, Gomez Jr. said at the council meeting Tuesday.

“We’re going up against people who will be having all cash offers, people who are going to be willing to waive contingencies, things that we can’t necessarily do,” he said.

In Piedmont, the median home sale price is currently $1.9 million, according to Redfin and Realtor.com, while in Livermore it is $980,000, Hayward is about $870,000, and Union City is about $1 million.

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