Sacramento City Councilman Proposes Housing Campus for Homeless and Low-Income Community Members

Homeless people could first join the community in tents, eventually graduating to more permanent housing solutions on campus, while low-income families meeting certain requirements could rent or purchase homes on the property, even without a history of homelessness.

The Sacramento Bee

By Theresa Clift

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A Sacramento City Councilman is proposing a huge campus to house up to 700 homeless and low-income people in tents, cabins, tiny homes, and ultimately single-family homes.

Councilman Allen Warren has three potential locations for the project, which he is calling Renewal Village, in his north Sacramento district. One parcel is owned by the city, one is owned by another public agency and a third is privately owned, he said. Warren did not provide the exact locations for the sites under consideration.

A rendering of the project Warren sent The Sacramento Bee shows different types of housing units separated by neat walkways and parking lots lined with landscaping and gardens. Facilities for laundry, storage and a dog kennel are included, as well parking lots for overnight car camping.

Renewal Village

Homeless people could join the campus first living in tents. Residents could eventually graduate to sleeping cabins, then tiny homes and ultimately single-family homes with services, said Kerrin West, president of architecture firm Studio 81, which created a design for the project for free for Warren's office.

The plan takes people from homelessness to self-sufficiency," said West, who is also co-founder of nonprofit First Step Communities.

People who meet certain income requirements could also rent or purchase the tiny homes or single-family homes, even if they have no history of homelessness, Warren said. That option would likely be open to those who make less than 80% of the county's "average median income," Warren said. For a one-person household, the AMI is currently $56,050, according to a state document. Families would also be able to live in Renewal Village, he said.

The village would house at least 200 homeless people in tents and cabins, Warren said. The plan is for the 75 tents to stay up for two years, with people living in them for a maximum of eight months each. After the tents are closed, the village would stay open, but the area where the tents used to sit would be redeveloped, Warren said.

The project could be up and running in four months, once funded, Warren said. He's not yet sure what the total price tag would be, but 100 tents would cost about $5.4 million to construct and operate for two years, if the facility is on public land, according to a Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency report.

West said she thinks the tents could be constructed for far less than SHRA's figure, and hopes to present new figures to the council soon.

Warren's north Sacramento district has many neighborhoods impacted by the city's growing homeless population. A census of Sacramento County's homeless population released in July showed a 19 percent increase over the past two years.

Multiple solutions for a complex issue are needed," Warren said. "It's a city and region problem. We really need regional solutions."
How Is Sacramento Helping the Homeless?

Warren announced his proposal during a meeting where council members proposed a variety of remedies to address the city's growing homeless population besides the large shelters the council has been focused on under Mayor Darrell Steinberg's leadership.

Councilman Rick Jennings talked about his idea for opening parking lots for homeless to safely sleep overnight, while Councilman Jeff Harris discussed a motel conversion and cabins in his district. Councilwoman Angelique Ashby suggested housing homeless in 50 existing housing units scattered across Natomas and south Sacramento as they become vacant.

The city has allocated most of its resources so far this year to opening large shelters with services.

However, about $37 million in state and private funding is on the way in the next six months, making the other proposals possible, Steinberg announced Tuesday.

Of the $37 million, about $20 million is expected to be available after the city funds the shelters opening in Meadowview and North Oak Park in the coming months, said Mary Lynne Vellinga, the mayor's spokeswoman.

You don't think with this kind of money that we can't take all these options and make a big difference in every single way? You better believe we can and you better believe we will," Steinberg said. "I understand we have choices to make, but let's go full throttle here on all these options and let's get people off the streets."

City and SHRA staff plan to return to the council in the coming weeks with more detailed cost estimates for each project, as well as funding sources, so the council can vote on priorities, Ashby said.

The city currently has one large shelter with services open, at the Capitol Park Hotel downtown, where about 100 adults are now staying, according to SHRA.

About 658 people cycled through the city's first large shelter, on Railroad Drive, which cost about $5 million. It permanently housed about 160 people, and temporarily housed another 100 during the 17 months it was open.

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