SPUR, the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association, has a legacy of decades of controversial urban renewal plans. Now the organization has joined state Senator Josh Becker in support of easing zoning restrictions and other red tape to accelerate “quick-build” solutions for the homeless.
A Stanford MBA and former member of the Assembly—whose 13th Senate District includes all of San Mateo and the northwestern portions of Santa Clara County—Becker is the sponsor of SB 634, which aims to make it easier to deploy temporary, movable housing on vacant land. In addition to the SPUR support, the influential Bay Area Council, housing advocate DignityMoves and San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan have enthusiastically lent their support for the bill, which was scheduled to be considered April 26 by the Senate Governance and Finance Committee.The bill was approved 8-1 last week by the Senate Housing Committee.
“SB 634 will accelerate our ability to build basic, safe shelter and move people indoors so that we can end the era of encampments,” said Mahan in a statement. “We can no longer afford to take incremental action to address our homelessness crisis.”
The cost of building permanent affordable housing has risen to $1 million per unit, with a five-year construction cycle in San Jose, Mahan said. So-called “quick build” alternatives are more cost-effective and take a fraction of the time to build, according to Mahan, who has made them a cornerstone of the city’s efforts to reduce unsheltered homelessness with short-term shelter options.
Mahan said the city needs what he is calling an “all of the above approach,” and has set a goal of moving 1,000 people off the streets and into safe alternatives via quick-builds, safe parking, hotel vouchers and other means by the end of 2023.
“Opportunity housing is the most hopeful development I’ve seen to address our homelessness crisis at scale and with speed,” said Becker in a statement. “My goal with this legislation is to get tens of thousands of people off the street in the next few years and I’m confident we will do that. The opportunity housing model is breaking ground throughout the state and SB 634 will allow the model to efficiently ramp up production to house our unsheltered neighbors.”
“While permanent housing is the ultimate long-term goal, we cannot let our streets be the waiting room in the meantime,” said Elizabeth Funk, founder and CEO of DignityMoves. “We are thrilled to see cities like San Jose and leaders like Senator Becker embracing innovative solutions that have the potential to finally bring people indoors quickly and at scale.”
“We need a comprehensive and compassionate response to homelessness in California that delivers results,” said Michael Lane, state policy director of SPUR. “Opportunity housing is a key part of that response that gets people living outdoors and in makeshift and dangerous encampments into safe and secure conditions expeditiously. SB 634 will allow attractive and cost-effective interim housing communities to be built in a matter of months and rapidly provide decent homes for people experiencing homelessness.”