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What is taking Sacramento's state-funded tiny homes project to be completed?

Homeless advocates say state-funded tiny homes project in Sacramento is taking too long
Homeless advocates say state-funded tiny homes project in Sacramento is taking too long 03:06

SACRAMENTO — Construction is happening for tiny homes for the homeless in Sacramento after Governor Gavin Newsom unveiled this plan over a year ago.

The site on Stockton Boulevard in South Sacramento will have small homes, with 175 beds total. 

Sacramento was one of the four counties selected by the governor for this initiative alongside Los Angeles, San Jose and San Diego. 

"It is a real emergency that doesn't need PR responses," said Niki Jones, director of the Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness. "It needs solid actionable solutions."

The initial plan that was unveiled in March 2023 was that the state would provide the small homes, the National Guard would deliver them and the state would handle installation services.

That plan changed.

By Fall 2023, the Department of General Services said the state created a process to make it easier for local governments to purchase small homes at a state-negotiated price.

"It hasn't materialized fully anywhere yet," Jones said.

The biggest challenge has been finding locations to place the tiny homes, as many neighborhoods are resistant to the plan.

"You see pretty slow outcomes for people," said Janna Haynes, a spokesperson for Sacramento County's Homeless Services and Housing. "They are servicing some of our hardest-to-serve people who are experiencing homelessness."

Haynes said the county's two tiny home sites that have been in operation since August 2023 and December 2023 have been successful.

"We've had couples who have come in and gotten jobs and exit into apartments together," Haynes said.

So why has the state's site seen so many delays? The initial plan was for the site to be at Cal Expo, but the Department of General Services said that changed to a private lot on Stockton Boulevard which required the county to negotiate a lease with the owner.

The Department of General Services said that was approved in December 2023, but the rain stopped the work from beginning.

"People are in dire need of shelter across the county and across the state every day," Jones said.

The construction for the site on Stockton Boulevard will be fully state-funded, costing $23.3 million, but the county will be responsible for operating the site and what it costs to do that.

Right now, the site is projected to be completed this fall.

The Department of General Services said there is also a plan to create another tiny homes site on Watt Avenue. The funding for this project will not come from the state.

Haynes told CBS13 that the tiny homes site they have been operating since August 2023 also took a long time to get up and running.

"From the time we announced the site to the time we opened ended up being 15 months," Haynes said. "We had numerous delays from supply chain to vendors that dropped out to permitting delays."

The second site was up and running much quicker.

Haynes said both tiny home sites give every resident a lock and key to a safe place, three hot meals a day and access to resources like case managers or transportation.

First Step Communities is the contractor that is set to operate the site on Stockton Boulevard.

The Department of General Services said other reasons for delays are because the design and construction of these tiny home villages are not a 'plug-and-use' project. This means each cabin needs to be powered, restrooms and showers purchased and plumbed separately and the same goes for the offsite utilities.

San Diego County has decided to put this state-funded tiny homes initiative on pause after months of negotiations.

The Department of General Services gave CBS13 insight into the progress happening in each of the counties:

Sacramento (350 beds): The units will be provided at two sites (WellSpace and Watt Ave). The state has agreed to build the WellSpace location, which is currently under construction. As part of this agreement, locals requested that all funding be allocated to a single site. This includes additional construction beyond the small homes, which has increased costs, while locals will fund the second location.

Sacramento: $23.3 million

San Jose (200 beds): After months of negotiations at the local level, by October of 2023, the Cerone site was selected. This location will house all of their units.

San Jose: $13.3 million

Los Angeles (500 beds): They have identified their sites, some of which are new construction, and others are sites that were planned but needed additional local funding to get off the ground.

Los Angeles: $33.4 million

San Diego County (150 beds): After months of local negotiations and initial site approval, in June 2024, the County of San Diego placed their tiny home efforts on pause. The state is weighing options for recapturing its investment of $10 million in funding provided to the county and potentially redeploying it to other jurisdictions.

San Diego: $10 million 

The Governor's Office provided this statement to CBS13: 

"It is disappointing that San Diego County chose to abandon its efforts to provide tiny homes. In light of the local government electing to no longer move forward, the state plans to recoup the funding provided to them and weigh options for redeploying it to other jurisdictions."

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