City of Berkeley awarded $16.2M to fund Homekey project

Photo of the Berkeley skyline
Ben Mefford/Staff
California Gov. Gavin Newsom awarded the city $16.2 million, which will go toward converting Golden Bear Hotel into 43 permanent supportive housing studios to accommodate people experiencing houselessness. 

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The city of Berkeley was awarded $16.2 million by California Gov. Gavin Newsom on April 13 to rehabilitate the Golden Bear Hotel.

According to a press release by Newsom’s office, $70 million was awarded for six Homekey projects across California, which will provide 232 new housing units for people experiencing houselessness. Since Newsom’s extension of Homekey last year, the state approved 55 projects that will provide 3,195 housing units of additional housing units for houseless Californians. In the coming years, the governor’s housing investments are anticipated to provide more than 55,000 housing units, the press release states.

“Homekey is proof that we can solve homelessness,” Newsom said in the press release. “We’ve swiftly created safer places to live for thousands of unhoused individuals throughout the last two years and today’s awards continue that progress – creating 232 housing units for folks experiencing homelessness across the state and providing them with the supportive services they need.”

Stefan Elgstrand, spokesperson for Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, said in an email that the city of Berkeley initially requested $18 million to fund its Homekey project.

According to a press release published by Arreguín’s office, Golden Bear Hotel, which is a 44-unit hotel located in Northwest Berkeley, will be converted using the funds granted into 43 permanent supportive housing studios to accommodate people experiencing homelessness.

A counseling space, community room and dining hall will be included as part of the inn’s on-site amenities. Residents will also have access to a grocery store, health care facility, library, pharmacy and public transit within a half-mile of the project, the press release states.

“This is serious funding to help communities like ours respond to California’s most serious problem; homelessness,” Arreguín said in the press release. “The City is aggressively pursuing these funds in response to growing concerns over the impacts of homelessness.”

Under the Homekey program, the city of Berkeley has partnered with California’s Department of Housing and Community Development to build housing in order to address the issues of homelessness and serve people who are at risk of experiencing homelessness and have been impacted by the pandemic, Newsom’s press release adds.

In his press release, Newsom said that additional Homekey awards will be announced and will be accepting applications until funds are exhausted or until May 2.

“We know that permanent supportive housing is the evidence-based solution to homelessness in our community,” said Councilmember Rashi Kesarwani in Arreguín’s press release. “This Homekey funding will enable us to create 44 permanent homes that I hope will transform the lives of residents. We stand ready to welcome our new neighbors to District 1.”

Contact Lauren Cho at [email protected].