The latest news in the ongoing homelessness debate in California comes to us from Sonoma County, located north of San Francisco and west of Sacramento. Officials there have unveiled a controversial new plan to provide housing for the homeless, many of whom have been camping out on the Joe Rodota Trail, a paved hiking and biking trail popular with locals and tourists alike. It’s less popular now, however, since it’s crowded with illegal homeless encampments. In fact, the Sonoma County Park Service has issued a warning for people to avoid a large section of the trail because of “safety concerns caused by illegal encampments.”
So what’s the plan? The county is looking at spending millions of taxpayer dollars to purchase three large apartment complexes and convert them to public housing for the homeless. There’s just one major snag to the plan that has the locals up in arms. There are already people living there and paying rent on the apartments, so they’ll have to be kicked out to make room for the new, transient neighbors. (CBS San Francisco)
A controversial plan to solve the homeless crisis has people fired up in Sonoma County where officials plan to spend millions of dollars to buy three properties that would be used to house the homeless.
All three properties have one thing in common. They’re big and have multiple units, but many of those units are currently occupied by tenants.
“I’m sure the tenants have been asked to leave,” said Allen Thomas. He lives near one of the three properties, 811 Davis Street in Santa Rosa.
Neighbors said it’s counterproductive to evict renters to house the homeless.
So the people who live in all three of these complexes and pay rent for their apartments will need to be kicked out. Affordable housing is hard to come by in California as everyone knows, so the newly evicted tenants may face serious challenges in finding a new place that they can afford.
In other words, Sonoma County is planning on addressing the homelessness crisis by potentially creating more homeless people. Will they then be allowed the option of moving back into their old apartments for free?
Other residents of these neighborhoods complained to CBS that this plan simply makes no sense. Also, they are concerned about the potential for increased crime, human waste, drug dealing and other “quality of life infractions” that go along with dense concentrations of homeless people. These NIMBY complaints are a common feature in the debate over what to do about this crisis.
Someone should let the officials in Sonoma County know that there are other options on the table that don’t involve evicting productive citizens who are paying rent into the system. Rather than grabbing up commercial rental properties, other counties have been working to obtain abandoned federal properties and convert them. This process can be time-consuming, but it has several benefits. For one thing, the properties tend to not be in residential areas. This reduces friction with the residents. And a single, large building can be easier to police and maintain than several smaller ones.
Down near Los Angeles, local officials have even managed to swallow their pride and agree to work with President Trump on just such a federal program. The deal would involve some bargain basement priced property that’s not currently being used by the feds anyway, along with federal funding to help with the conversion. That’s some outside the box thinking that the rest of California should take as an example of how to get something productive done before the homelessness crisis is too great to ever be tackled.