San Diego’s homeless population could soon see new housing options across the County.
A new plan unveiled Thursday by Father Joe’s Villages would transform unused lots and overlooked buildings – like old motels – into apartments.
The project, dubbed “Turning the Key: Unlocking a Brighter San Diego”, would add 2,000 units of affordable housing for people overcoming homelessness.
“With over 1,000 people sleeping on the streets of downtown on any given night, now is the time to forge bold solutions,” said Father Joe’s Villages President and CEO Deacon Jim Vargas in a statement. “San Diego currently has the lowest rental vacancy rate in the country, and the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is over $1,700. Our homelessness crisis will not be resolved until we create more housing that people can afford. We see how transforming underused lots and disregarded motels into thousands of housing units across the county can be that foundation for change.”
Vargas said the units will be built between now and the next five years.
Approximately two-thirds of the units for the project would be outside of Downtown San Diego. Motel renovations in areas outside of Downtown San Diego would provide 1,240 total units; locations will be announced at a later date. Lots at 5th and Ash, 14th and Commercial, 17th and Commercial and the Bishop Maher Center at 15th and Commercial will provide hundreds of additional new units.
Once all units are built, more than 2,500 people overcoming homelessness would have housing.
The new apartments will also help seniors, veterans, families, transition-age youth, people with disabilities and people with limited income, as well.
Laura Morgan has benefited from similar affordable housing programs. She lives in an apartment right next door to Father Joe’s Villages.
Morgan says a move like this is a step in the right direction, but added that sadly, many more still need help.
“So many of my friends are still out there right now,” Morgan said. “But I always believe that once you get the housing then everything will kind of fall into place.”
An important part of the project, Vargas said, will be making sure each place comes with tailored services to help individuals maintain housing stability.
"Sleeping on the street is often the final leg of an otherwise complicated path of unpredictable circumstances,” Vargas said in a statement. “Turning the Key makes easily accessible supportive services a core component to tackling these underlying issues and creates lasting self-sufficiency for each individual."
Father Joe’s Villages plans to start renovating some motel properties this year. They plan to break ground on new buildings in 2018.
The organization anticipates that some renovated motel units will be ready for move-in as soon as mid-2018.