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California to build 1,200 tiny houses in four cities to combat homelessness

© iStock - Mechelle Brooks
Tom Joyce

(The Center Square) – California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a plan that he hopes will reduce homelessness. 

Newsom announced plans to build 1,200 tiny houses to help combat the state's homelessness problem. 

Under Newsom's state-funded plan announced Thursday, Los Angeles will get 500 homes, Sacramento will get 350, San Jose will get 200, and San Diego County will get 150. 

Newsom touted the proposal at a speech at Cal Expo in California, calling it a small part of the state's long-term strategy to combat homelessness. 

"In that continuum of rapid rehousing and that continuum of prevention, which is part of the original continuum, we have got to provide more options, so what we're doing is we're deploying these 1200 plus units," Newsom said at the event. 

The governor said the units would serve as short-term temporary housing as communities determine longer-term solutions to help homeless people.

Additionally, Newsom proposed spending an additional $1 billion in Homeless, Housing, Assistance, and Prevention funding for local communities to combat homelessness.

"We have laid out a vision, a strategy, and a plan, and the cities, the counties, and what is referred to as the COCs... have also put numeric goals to make real our goals surrounding accountability," Newsom said. 

Republicans discounted the measure, saying it would barely put a dent in the state's chronic homelessness problem.

"This is just another band-aid on a crisis that is out of control in California," Senate Minority Leader Brian W. Jones, R-San Diego, said. "We know that throwing money at this problem doesn't work. California has already spent $20 billion over the last five years on homelessness and the crisis has only gotten worse with more than 172,000 people living on the streets in this state. While I appreciate the governor's creativity to construct 1,200 tiny homes, that is a drop in the bucket."

Newsom also said it would be "myopic" to view his announcement as his only plan to reduce homelessness. 

San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan called Newsom's tiny home idea "common sense."

San Jose approved the construction of 400 tiny homes for homeless people last year, and Mahan said it has reduced crime and strain on public services.

"We all agree that building more housing, especially more affordable housing, is the long-term solution, as well as expanding our mental health, hospital system, and inpatient treatment centers," Mahan said. "But as we build up our housing stock and rebuild our mental health system, we have a moral obligation to address the immense human suffering we see on our streets every day."'

State Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland, also praised the proposal. She said that it will take time to fix the state's homeless problem, but also that this plan is a start.

"The 1,200 small homes that we see are going to be critical interim housing for our local cities and our counties as they strive to meet their ambitious goals that they set forth for themselves. And while it took us decades to get into this crisis, we know it's going to take time and commitment from the state to move ahead."

California had 171,000 homeless people last year, according to federal estimates; the state has 30 percent of the country's homeless population.