Just six weeks after the Sutter County Board of Supervisors applied for emergency funding to purchase a motel for affordable housing and wrap around services for individuals and families, California Governor Gavin Newsom today announced approval of a $6.7 million grant to buy the 62-room Baymont Motel, self-storage yard, and restaurant on Highway 99 near Oswald Road south of Yuba City.
Once the purchasing process is complete, the County intends to immediately quitclaim the property at 4228 Sawtelle Avenue (Highway 99) to Habitat for Humanity Yuba-Sutter to be operated as permanent housing for Sutter County residents who are currently, or become, homeless, according to County Administrative Officer Steven M. Smith.
Habitat for Humanity of Yuba-Sutter will work with Hands of Hope in Yuba City to administer the permanent housing solution and provide a variety of services to assist homeless individuals in retreating from the insecurity of the river bottoms and the streets into the security of four walls and a locked door. The agencies will work closely with Sutter County Health and Human Services Department, but the operation will be entirely under the umbrella of Habitat for Humanity.
"This is not a homeless 'shelter'," CAO Smith pointed out when the Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 on August 11 to submit the grant application to the California Department of Housing."This will be affordable housing targeting those with a history of homelessness operated by an agency whose mission is to house people."
Governor Newsom announced the Homekey project in June. The state offered a total of $600 million in grants to jurisdictions throughout the state for creative solutions to get homeless individuals off the streets during the pandemic. Most of the funds used to purchase the motel were allocated to California when Congress passed, and the President signed, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in late March. He announced 19 new projects today, bringing the total funded to date to 49. (For a full list of projects, visit https://www.bcsh.ca.gov/homekey/)
Homeless individuals housed at the Habitat for Humanity will pay a capped percentage of their income to live on the property. While the rental amounts will be small, it will help pay for some of the services to be provided, Habitat for Humanity Yuba-Sutter Chief Executive Officer Joseph Hale told the Board of Supervisors.
The operation of the self-storage business will help Habitat for Humanity fund maintenance and services at the property. And the agency operates a Re-Sale store out of a former department store in Marysville that raises additional funds that can be used in supporting the motel project. Hale said Habitat for Humanity intends to work with Hands of Hope, which has more than a quarter century of experience serving the homeless population.
"This is an outstanding opportunity to provide a safe, secure, sanitary place for individuals, rather than the streets and the rivers," said Board Chairman Ron Sullenger. "By using available grant funds to purchase a property to provide housing, and transferring the property to a non-profit agency to operate it and provide services, the County is improving opportunities for housing without becoming a landlord.
"At this property, residents can feel safe, get any help they need, and begin anew. Combined with our Better Way emergency housing shelter and 13 other programs for the homeless in Sutter County, this will provide people with necessary alternatives to camping in public places. This will allow Sutter County to enforce the no camping ordinance it adopted last year."
"Habitat for Humanity's mission is to end homelessness and substandard housing," Hale said. "For a long time the focus has been on prevention through the construction of low income housing and home repairs for seniors. With this Permanent Housing project, we hope to be a hand up to those actively experiencing the struggles of living without a place to call home." With this Permanent Housing project, we hope to be a hand up to those actively experiencing the struggles of living without a place to call home."
The Board of Supervisors considered a number of properties before making an offer on the Baymont Hotel, which is owned by Ray Patel. The property went into escrow last week. The purchase price is $7.2 million. Sutter County will commit $500,000 in CARES Act funds it previously allocated to make up the difference between the Homekey grant and the purchase price.
"This project has many benefits," said CAO Smith. "It will move people out of homelessness, off the streets and into a secure, supportive environment, yet charge a percentage of their income as rent so each resident will have skin in the game so to speak. The County already puts some individuals in motel rooms at the daily rate if they are experiencing chronic medical problems-this will reduce those costs. It will allow us to engage in enforcement of the ordinance that prohibits camping on county property, including county road right of way, and our precious rivers."
Smith praised County staff and leadership at Habitat for Humanity for putting a complicated application together in a short period of time. Alternatives to the street and the river bottoms have been a priority of the Board of Supervisors since 2017.