Santa Barbara County officials are working quickly on a proposal to purchase a motel in Goleta with new grant funds from the state and to convert the property into transitional and permanent supportive housing for the homeless population.
During a special virtual meeting Tuesday, the Goleta City Council voted unanimously to support an application from the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Barbara to buy a Goleta property acceptable as part of the Homekey program with funding from the state.
Homekey will provide California counties and cities $600 million for hotel and motel conversions throughout the state.
The county, in partnership with the HACSB, is working to secure the Homekey grant funds.
If awarded the state grant, the project would convert a local motel into a navigation center, transitional housing (15 rooms) and permanent supportive housing (50 rooms), with a preference for people experiencing homelessness in Goleta.
Support services, including counseling sessions, mental health appointments and security, also would be provided on site.
“Everybody is recognizing that people at risk of homelessness have increased, as well as people experiencing homelessness,” said John Polansky, director of housing development for the HACSB.
The HACSB has considered one prospective site — the Super 8 motel at 6021 Hollister Ave. in Goleta, at the corner of Fairview and Hollister avenues, an intersection serving as the entrance to Old Town Goleta.
There are “no viable backups currently,” Polansky said.
The HACSB would be the official purchaser of the property, and the organization would manage the facility in partnership with the county.
“The Housing Authority has been looking for quite a while trying to find a site that would meet the community’s needs, meet the needs of the individuals themselves, and we appreciate the partnership,” Polanksy said.
For the Homekey funding, $550 million would come from the state’s direct allocation of the federal coronavirus relief money and $50 million from the state general fund, according to a Goleta report.
The program is building on the success of the state’s Project Roomkey, a program to help communities lease hotel and motel rooms for temporary housing for people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ongoing operational costs would be paid for through additional grant funds, as well as Santa Barbara County funds and countywide Continuum of Care funds.
“This project had been something that we had been looking for a site even prior to Homekey,” said Kimberlee Albers, homeless assistance programs manager for the county. “The county has allocated significant resources for the supportive services through the Behavioral Wellness Department, Public Health and other state funding.”
To date, there are no interim housing or permanent supportive housing units dedicated to homeless individuals in Goleta, Albers said.
Since April, Albers has been operating the Project Roomkey site in Santa Barbara. The hotel the county is responsible for operating is specifically for people at the highest risk of medical complications from the coronavirus.
When discussing the motel site in Goleta, Albers said, “We believe the interim housing, the 15 units, would operate much like the current Roomkey site in that we are bridging them to permanent housing, and a similar population served — those with underlying medical conditions, seniors and others with barriers to housing.”
The Super 8 is not located near residences in the immediate vicinity and accessible to public transit offerings and Highway 101, said Dominique Samario, management analyst for Goleta.
The motel owners have expressed interest in selling their property, according to a Goleta report.
The proposed asking price of $7.75 million falls within the general parameters of the grant program, which has allocated $22 million in acquisition and programmatic funding to five counties along the Central Coast if applications are received by August.
As of late Monday, the owner of the Super 8 and the Los Angeles-based broker did not select the HACSB’s offer, Samario said.
The organization made a “strong offer, but at this point, they (Super 8) seem to have selected another offer,” Samario said, adding that the project timeline is tight.
Priority applications from agencies must be received by Aug. 13. Acquisition funding through the Homekey project must be spent by the end of the year, and rooms must be occupied 90 days after funds are received.
According to the annual federally mandated Point in Time count, there were more than 1,890 homeless people in Santa Barbara County, a 5 percent increase compared with the tally in 2019. Data from this year’s count found 166 homeless individuals in Goleta — a large increase compared with 119 people last year.
“Providing housing is critical,” Councilman Roger Aceves said. “More critical now with COVID.”
After Tuesday’s vote, Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte said, “We will see what happens with this.”
According to the organization, the HACSB functions primarily to build, acquire, own, manage and maintain residential rental units for people of very low income, and to obtain rental payment assistance for similar households renting in the private real estate market.