The City of San Diego and the San Diego Housing Commission are planning to purchase two Marriott hotels to turn into permanent apartments for 336 of the city’s homeless. The new tenants would likely be relocated from the San Diego Convention Center, which has been used as a temporary socially distanced-compliant homeless shelter since the pandemic broke out.
The purchase of the two Marriott Residence Inns—one in Mission Valley and another in Kearny Mesa—is made possible thanks to a $37.7 million grant from the state’s $600 million Project Homekey program, established to help house the homeless during the pandemic.
Additional donors include Chase Bank, Moving to Work, and the city’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act fund, reports The San Diego Union-Tribune.
Housing Commission President and CEO Rick Gentry explained that $27.7 million in donations will go toward the $67 million 192-room hotel at Mission Valley, and $10 million will go toward the $39.5 million 144-room Kearny Mesa site. Built in 2003 and renovated in 2013, the two hotels need minimal repairs—meaning they can be up and running as quickly as needed.
Gentry praised the hotel purchase as a “game-changer” in the city’s effort to create a solution to its homelessness crisis.
Each of the total 336 apartments will have an estimated market value of between $274,000 and $349,000. Units will be fully equipped with a kitchenette so that tenants can live independently; each building has common areas and two rooms for managers, and supportive services such as health care and employment assistance are part of the residence package.
“This is not a temporary shelter,” Scott Marshall of the San Diego Housing Commission told ABC 10. “They are permanent homes that will provide them a path out of the shelter and off the streets.”
At the time of writing, it is not known what the entry criteria for new tenants will be, but the Housing Commission has committed 332 federal housing vouchers for use by new tenants for both hotels.
San Diego’s purchase plan is a timely one, as the temporary homeless shelter at the San Diego Convention Center is soon to close, and its Operation Shelter to Home initiative will draw to a close at the end of 2020. Some tenants will be relocated back to the city’s bridge shelters, which will operate at reduced capacity, while others will benefit from the hotel project.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer has publicly backed the collaboration between the City and the San Diego Housing Commission. “Rapidly converting hotels into housing is how we get new units available faster and at a lower cost for taxpayers, as San Diego continues to lead the state with innovative homeless solutions,” he explained in a press release on Sept. 15.
“There’s a reason why San Diego is the only region in the state to see homelessness decline each of the past two years,” Faulconer adds. “We now have another opportunity with these hotels to end the cycle of homelessness for hundreds more people.”
The hotel purchase plan will be tabled before the San Diego City Council in October for final approval. If all goes well, apartments could be ready in time for Christmas.
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