The homeless challenge, discussed for months at Los Banos City Council meetings, took a new turn at the council’s Oct. 19 meeting.
The council decided to apply for the state’s Permanent Local Housing Allocation (PLHA) Program, favoring purchasing a hotel to house those experiencing homelessness.
According to Community and Economic Development Director Stacy Elms, “The intent of the PLHA program is to provide a permanent, on-going source of funding to local governments for housing related projects and programs that assist in addressing the unmet housing needs of their communities.”
Elms specified that, because of its size (less than 50,000 people), Los Banos is considered a “non-entitlement local government.” This means that Los Banos is not automatically allocated Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds from the federal government. Therefore, most housing grants must be acquired through a state competitive process.
The PLHA application, Elms explained, requires a 5-year plan that includes a description of how the funds will be used for eligible activities. For Los Banos the eligible activity will be assisting those who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
The estimated five-year PLHA funding amount is $1,129,105, and the application must be submitted by Nov. 30, 2022.
Before making a decision on applying for the grant, the council was tasked with choosing between two options for permanent housing that will be included in the five-year plan for the application:
1. The purchase and remodel of a hotel located in the city for the use of temporary or long-term housing for those experiencing or at-risk of homelessness, or
2. Purchasing land or using existing city land for the use of a tiny-home project to serve those at risk of experiencing homelessness.
Elms clarified that the plan within the application is flexible and can be changed after the council chooses its preferred option, but first the council must decide between the two options in order to submit the application to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD).
Considering the pros of both options, Elms said, “Both are very strong. Option 1 (hotel) in the long run is quicker and cheaper. Option 2 (tiny homes) allows the city to create what we want it to look like.”
Council member Refugio Llamas, comfortable with both options, said that he liked tiny homes because of their longevity, often being made from steel, and that the city can be strategic about where to place the homes.
However, for time’s sake in dealing with this issue, the majority of the council ultimately favored option 1, to purchase and remodel a hotel to serve as housing for those experiencing homelessness.