Fremont seeks state funds for $35M affordable housing project

FREMONT, Calif. — The Fremont City Council has granted city staff permission to seek state funds in order to convert a motel into housing for the most vulnerable individuals in the community.

On Tuesday night, the council unanimously authorized staff to submit an application for $35 million to the state’s Homekey program. The application aims to convert the Motel 6, located at 46101 Research Avenue, into a permanent supportive housing project consisting of 156 units. The plan involves transforming the motel rooms into apartments with kitchenettes and on-site support services, with each unit costing $266,400.

“We need to have housing, we need to have solutions, we need to have wraparound services,” Mayor Lily Mei said. “There is no single silver bullet that cures everything, but I think it’s a combination of our efforts.”

In late March, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that the Homekey program had $736 million in grants available to assist communities in buying and converting motels, hotels and commercial properties into interim or permanent housing for those without shelter. The program is a continuation of efforts like Project Roomkey that began at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in order to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus among people without shelter. It has since evolved into an initiative to end homelessness in the state.

The application is being sent in partnership with developer Shangri-La Industries and nonprofit Step Up On Second Steet, which would manage the complex. The council allocated $7.6 million in matching city funds for the project, and Alameda County is expected to contribute $1 million, bringing the total local matching funds to $8.6 million.

During the meeting on Tuesday night, a couple dozen individuals expressed both support and opposition to the project. Supporters believe it will address the issue of homelessness in the city, while opponents fear it may lead to an increase in crime and drug use within their communities.

However, Police Chief Sean Washington noted that similar projects in the community, such as the housing navigation center, have resulted in fewer service calls, which could include incidents related to crime, disturbances or missing persons, after their conversion. City staff also highlighted that a significant portion of Fremont’s homeless population comprises older adults and individuals with medical conditions, and that their decision to partner with Step Up was based on the success of the organization’s Homekey projects in San Bernardino County.

According to the county’s point-in-time count, 1,026 people were unhoused in Fremont in 2022.

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