Assessing California's Homekey Program

The innovative housing program launched during the pandemic has made a significant difference for unhoused individuals, but long-term support remains underfunded.

2 minute read

March 25, 2022, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

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Carolina Reid summarizes California’s Homekey Program: Unlocking Housing Opportunities for People Experiencing Homelessness, a report from Berkeley's Terner Center for Housing Innovation that assesses the successes and challenges of the innovative housing program. "Developed in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Homekey provides local public entities with large, capital grants that can be used to purchase existing buildings and convert them into housing for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness."

According to the blog, "All told, Homekey 1.0 added 6,000 rooms and/or units to the state’s supply of interim and permanent housing in under six months, at an average initial cost of $238,000 per unit," less than half the average cost of building an affordable housing unit in California. 

"We find that Homekey’s grant structure–coupled with giving jurisdictions flexibility in how to use the funds–allowed them to move quickly to respond to local needs." Additionally, "Homekey’s emphasis on speed—facilitated by regulatory streamlining—made all the difference in how quickly localities were able to get people housed."

Reid notes that "For all its strengths, Homekey remains embedded within an underfunded and fragmented affordable housing system. This means that many properties do not have sufficient funding to support long-term operations—this remains the single largest challenge and concern for Homekey grantees." According to the report, "The resources to support resident well-being—including case management, health care, and mental health and/or substance use counseling—also remain well below need."

Reid concludes that the rapid deployment of Homekey shows promise, but the state must continue to support the program with appropriate resources for long-term success.

Thursday, March 17, 2022 in Terner Center for Housing Innovation

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