A year after passing a comprehensive plan to build shelters and safe ground camp sites for unhoused people, the Sacramento City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to instead spend the roughly $19 million earmarked for some of those projects on affordable housing.
The council approved a total of $32 million for seven affordable housing projects, which will offer more than 800 units across the city.
”Shelter is not the solution — housing is the solution,” Council member Katie Valenzuela said. “In the end, getting people permanent places to be is the solution.”
At least four of the projects include units designated for people experiencing homelessness, according to a staff report. The council also approved $150,000 for transitional housing beds through a Salvation Army program.
Kendra Lewis, executive director of the Sacramento Housing Alliance, praised the city’s plans at a press conference Monday.
“Sacramento should be proud,” said Lewis, whose organization promotes affordable housing. “This gives people hope. And it shows the community that in this time — in these really hard times of housing — that we are working together and that we are serious. We have projects that are going to happen in real time.”
Still, several residents allege the city is concentrating affordable housing projects and shelters in south and north Sacramento. Some residents in the Woodlake neighborhood have previously said the city has treated North Sacramento as a “dumping ground” for housing and shelters.
Of the seven projects, one is slated to be in North Sacramento, while others will be scattered throughout the city in South Sacramento, Oak Park, Tahoe Park and Southside Park.
- Stockton Boulevard Gateway Project on 3400 Stockton Blvd.
- Paratransit the Kind Project South on 7141 Woodbine Ave.
- Bridge Affordable Housing on 440 Arden Way
- CADA/Mutual Affordable Housing on 805 R St.
- Eden Housing Donner Field Affordable Housing on 4501 9th Ave.
- Affordable Single Family Lots in Oak Park
- Home Repair/Habitat Rock the Block Program in Oak Park
- 70-100 low-income homeowners get help with home repairs
Despite voting in favor of the projects, Council member Sean Loloee, who represents Woodlake and other North Sacramento neighborhoods, argued they will not immediately help people living on the streets.
“We have a lot of affordable housing units that will potentially not even break ground until next year or the following year,” Loloee said. “That is not really a relevant conversation as it relates to the issues of the unhoused.”
City Manager Howard Chan said Sacramento plans to keep its existing 1,100 emergency shelter beds open, despite deciding not to open new sites proposed in the comprehensive siting plan.
The city did not say when all of the projects will be finished, but said at least one of the projects could be completed in 2024.
Nixing the comprehensive siting plan
Earlier this year, the council scaled down its previously approved plan to build 20 new shelter sites, including tiny homes and designated camping and parking grounds. The city approved the so-called comprehensive siting plan in August 2021, but staff reported issues with most of the 20 initially proposed sites — largely in the form of unexpected costs and community opposition.
City staff revised the plan in April to encompass eight sites, three of which are open: the Outreach and Engagement Center on Auburn Boulevard, a shelter on North 5th Street and safe camping and parking areas at Miller Park.
Sacramento opened the Auburn Boulevard center full-time in late September, after only operating as a weather respite center. The city launched the Miller Park safe camping ground along the Sacramento River in February and expanded the 5ht Street shelter near the American River from 100 to 163 beds, said city spokesperson Gregg Fishman.
Altogether, the three sites can serve up to about 360 people, according to the city. When the city initially proposed 20 sites, city officials said the locations could serve around 3,600 people.
The city currently has 1,100 emergency shelter spaces, which are full on any given night. An estimated 9,300 people are experiencing homelessness in Sacramento County, according to the 2022 Homeless Point-In-Time Count.
“We’ve just got to get people off the streets in many numbers and that still remains true,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg said during the meeting. “But we’ve come to a place where I’ve recognized that we cannot do that alone.”
Steinberg added he would rather put limited local funds into permanent housing than temporary shelter. Increasing the supply of affordable housing can both help unhoused people, as well as people on the brink of homelessness, Steinberg said.
The council diverted the shelter money ahead of the November election, when voters will weigh in on a measure that would ban homeless encampments on public property and charge unhoused people with a misdemeanor if they decline the offer for shelter space.
If passed, Measure O would require the city manager to authorize hundreds of new shelter spaces if the funding is available. Chan has previously said Sacramento could face a $40 million deficit for homeless shelter funding as early as next summer.
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