As the nation’s most populous state, California has the highest number of people – roughly 161,000 – experiencing homelessness. The governor’s $12 billion housing proposal would equate to roughly $74,500 spent on every homeless person in the state.
The proposal includes $8.75 billion over two years to create an estimated 46,000 housing units, expanding on a program the governor launched last year to convert motels and other properties into housing. Nearly half the money would go toward housing in places where people with mental health and other behavioral issues can get services onsite.
Newsom also proposed spending $3.5 billion on rental subsidies, new housing and shelter resources with the aim of ending family homelessness within five years. It would help families with minors avoid losing their homes or help them get sheltered without spending time on a waitlist.
"As governor, I actually want to get something done. I don't want to talk about this for a decade," Newsom said in a news conference at a former San Diego Residence Inn that has been converted into housing for 177 previously homeless people. "What's happening on our streets and sidewalks is unacceptable."
The largest concentration of homelessness is in Los Angeles, where Mayor Eric Garcetti last month vowed to spend nearly $1 billion to move some of the 61,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County off the streets.
During the pandemic, Newsom launched projects "Roomkey" and "Homekey," using federal money to house homeless residents in hotels and helping cities, counties and other local entities buy and convert motels and other properties into housing. Newsom officials said $800 million spent on the Homekey program created 6,000 more housing units, providing shelter for 8,200 people.
Advocates cheered the governor's proposal, but they voiced concerns about the state’s decades-old resistance to building new homes: long-term funding issues, neighborhood opposition and other political hurdles.
Newsom’s focus on homelessness comes as he faces a likely recall election. Republican challengers, including John Cox and former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, have issued statements calling Newsom ineffective.
If Newsom's plan wins support from the state’s legislature, its implementation would depend heavily on the willingness of local governments and communities to go along with the program.
Newsom is rolling out the broader $100 billion pandemic recovery plan this week. The money comes from a $76 billion budget surplus and $27 billion in new funding from the federal government's coronavirus spending bill.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.