An $8.1 billion investment every year for the next 12 years could end homelessness in California, according to a new analysis that says pandemic-era levels of spending sustained over more than a decade would house everyone who needs housing.

We’re still digging through the results of the national homeless point-in-time count “census” released Monday by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the one that’s spurring President Biden to declare he will reduce homelessness by 25%. And the results of the point-in-time count are particularly unflattering for the state of California. The Golden State is without question the national epicenter of the homelessness problem, as detailed below by KQED’s Erin Baldassari, we have the highest rate of homelessness of any state in the nation, and 30% of all unhoused people in the country are here in California.


The Bay Area News Group dives into additional details, noting there are now 171,521 unhoused people in  California, which is a 6% increase since the previous point-in-time count. And that number too is likely far higher in reality, as the News Group points out that “More than 223,378 people accessed the state’s homeless services in the first half of this year alone.”

But those numbers come in a Bay Area News Group report that focuses more on two nonprofits saying homelessness in California can be solved by the year 2035, with an investment of $8.1 billion a year, for 12 years, totaling $96.9 billion over that 12-year period. Certainly those numbers seem enormous, though the annual investment represents just 2.5% of the state’s budget.

The groups releasing the report are two independent nonprofits called the Corporation for Supportive Housing and the California Housing Partnership, and the News Group details what the state needs to do each year of their 12-year plan to end homelessness. “The state would need to build 112,527 new affordable apartments — at an average cost of $5.7 billion per year,” the News Group reports. “It would cost another $1.8 billion a year in subsidies for people who can’t afford rent, plus $500 million to offer supportive housing to 62,966 households with disabilities who need extra care.”

“The plan also calls for the state to spend $488 million per year on interim housing and homeless shelters for 39,388 households awaiting permanent homes,” they add.

Of course, this is just two nonprofits speaking up and waving their plan around — this is not legislation before the state Assembly or Senate. But these levels of investment pretty much match right up with Governor Newsom’s Project Homekey and its levels of spending, so indeed it seems doable. Homekey was intended as a one-time investment (rather, $15 billion over two years), not a permanent cost. But policy experts have crunched the numbers here, and found that if we sustain pandemic-era levels of spending on the homelessness problem, we could theoretically solve this intractable problem.  

Related: Biden Administration Claims It Will Cut Homelessness By 25% In Two Years, Offers Little Detail On How [SFist]

Image: Levi Meir Clancy