Piedmont joins Alameda County cities in applying for state housing grant

The city will join with other Alameda County cities and a regional housing agency to apply for a state grant of as much as $20 million to create housing for homeless people.

While a maximum of three such housing units could be built in Piedmont should the grant application be successful — if suitable properties are found — City Council members said Monday said this city’s participation sends a bigger message, that it is making an effort to contribute to helping solve homelessness, a significant regional problem.

“The fact we can join the group and work toward solutions is terrific,” said Councilwoman Conna McCarthy of joining the application for the state Department of Housing and Community Development Homekey program. Several Alameda County cities, led by Hayward, are making a joint application along with Bay Area Community Services. This Oakland-based agency wants to expand its Project Reclamation Program and create a regional supportive shared housing program that acquires homes in jurisdictions throughout Alameda County for people experiencing homelessness. The housing units can be refurbished hotels, motels, single-family homes, and other buildings, which would be owned and operated by BACS.

The first Homekey program funding cycle, in 2020, provided $75 million to applicants in Alameda County for creating homes for those without one, and $846 million statewide. The 2021-2022 state budget provides at least $2.75 billion in acquisition and rehabilitation funds for use statewide.

City Senior Planner Pierce Macdonald-Powell told the council Tuesday night that this Homekey program is the largest such state funding opportunity addressing homelessness in California’s history.

The desire to help fight homelessness is consistent with Piedmont leaders’ efforts over the past few years to make Piedmont a more inclusive community, and increasing housing equity is a part of that.

“It’s really exciting to see Piedmont stepping up to be part of the solution for the region’s housing shortage,” said Alice Talcott, a member of the Piedmont Racial Equity Campaign’s Housing Committee.

Nothing is certain yet. If the joint grant application is successful, Piedmont could get anywhere from $1.3 million to $4.2 million for BACS projects within the city. But there is no guarantee suitable properties would be sold to BACS.

Council members thanked Macdonald-Powell for flagging this grant opportunity, and Mayor Teddy Gray King said that “I love that we know we’re at least trying and making a public statement.”

Said Councilwoman Jen Cavenaugh, “I appreciate that this may not come through for us, but I know I’m learning, and we’re all learning, every time we have this discussion.”

Contact Sam Richards at sam.richards4344@gmail.com

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