In a city struggling to permit parking for 25 vehicles serving as homes for people priced out of the local housing market, Modesto City Councilmembers managed in January to approve funding for 14 units of “affordable” housing costing out at over $271,000 per unit.
Funding for the project will come from California’s Home Key program and is subject to state approval. Costs will include purchase of a building owned by former Modesto City Councilman Brad Hawn, who is also a major player in Stanislaus County’s “Focus on Prevention” homeless program.
According to reports in The Modesto Bee, Hawn and two partners bought the building at 1208 9th Street in Modesto in 2004. The purchase price was $400,000. The $3.8 million dollar request for state funding includes $780,000 to purchase the building, which has been advertised for sale at $865,000. In 2006, the building was leased to Stanislaus County’s Behavioral Health Recovery Services for $6,000 a month.
Once converted to residences, the building would serve an at-risk population of 18-25 year old people in danger of homelessness. They would participate in programs provided by Stanislaus County’s Center for Human Services, a local nonprofit.
In addition to the purchase price, the City of Modesto is asking for $90,000 in predevelopment costs and $2.2 million to convert the building to residences. Critics of the project have pointed out that Kansas House, a 103 resident project for the homeless came in at a cost of a little over $8 million, not counting overhead for management and maintenance. Rooms include kitchenette, bathroom with shower, a washer and a dryer. Purchase price of the former motel was a little over $5 million; another $3 million went to upgrade the 103 rooms into permanent residences. Kansas House is a little over a mile away from the 1208 9th Street location.
At last count, Stanislaus County’s homeless population included almost 3,000 people. Over half were in Modesto. Given rising numbers of people living in vehicles, the actual count is likely much higher. At $271,000 per unit, housing that many people could turn out to be expensive.
In 2018, after a ruling by the 9th Circuit Court that authorities couldn’t penalize homeless people for sleeping on public property if there were nowhere else to go, Modesto attracted statewide attention when it permitted camping in a local park. When the number of campers burgeoned beyond the park’s capacity, the campsite was moved to a location under Modesto’s 9th Street bridge, where the number of residents soon neared 500.
With most campers living in donated tents and using Porta-Potties serviced by the City of Modesto, costs for maintaining the campsite were estimated at $13 per person per day. Reports from police indicated quality of life crimes and complaints about homeless people in public places dropped dramatically. Nonetheless, by 2020, the new campsite had been shut down. Hundreds of people had nowhere to go. Many of those same people remain on the streets today.
Meanwhile, city and county officials throughout the state find themselves helpless to stem the rising tide of homelessness, in large part because they’re unable to think beyond obsolete tactics involving shelters and inadequate services. Desperate to show positive action of any kind, they’re easily enticed by costly proposals that promise to cut through the red tape the state wraps around grants and funding. The result is rejection of cost-effective and humane strategies in favor of extravagant fixes that fall far short of reducing the multiple harms of homelessness.
Some cities, including Sacramento, have begun implementing “safe ground” policies that permit camping and parking for people living in vehicles. Ironically, Modesto, once a leader in such policies, now finds itself unable to follow its own example. Instead, city leaders seem committed to past practice and obsolete tactics for addressing homelessness. The consequences are more bodies on the sidewalks and in the parks and more dollars squandered trying to wish them away, sometimes to the tune of $271,000 dollars a unit.
John Gunderson says
Modesto has been trained to stay down on the farm rather than realize its potential.
Bruce Frohman says
If the City Council had mandated construction of apartment buildings in the past 20 years by the private sector, enough apartments could have been built to serve the entire homeless population. Even if the government paid the rent on all those apartments, the total per unit cost would be considerably less than what is being paid to convert motels, empty buildings and to build public housing projects. Instead of subsidizing single family home construction, the Council should focus on promoting apartments.
The ongoing human misery is tragic and avoidable.
Unfortunately the State keeps funding the same expensive models of housing and uses its horrific bureaucratic processes to manage the whole mess. Of course much of the money comes from the feds with its strings so reform should start at that level but there is a lot the state as well as local government can do if the electeds would initiate change.
For example, read about a success story at link below.
Change up the zoning and modify the mission of Habitat for Humanity and walla housing!!
The other area we need to invest in for any future [now] projects is Factory Built Housing. We have two such companies in the county, Entekra in Ceres and S2a Modular in Patterson. My favorite however is boxabl.com in Vegas. Check it out, it’s the new entry level home, or maybe an ADU for your parents, or 30 year old that works but can’t afford rent.
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. – Henry Ford”. We can no longer afford doing it the same way so let’s get started with the new.
Lou Valero says
Proactively housing those in danger of becoming homeless is a worthy goal. Yet purchasing a building owned by an ex-councilmember, for the price agreed, seems more like a bail out for the owner.
Certainly there were and are alternatives. Add up the cost to purchase and overhaul the buildings mentioned in this post, plus the ongoing maintenance and other ongoing costs, and anyone with foresight, and hindsight, can see: no where near enough housing was provided, for those without housing, for this grand total. What is it about this transaction that come across soooooooo questionable? Let us count the reasons…
For one (1), could it be that many apartments designated for the houseless, even in much larger, more expensive cities, did not and are not costing so much per unit. Many of us are watching to keep track.
How do the decisionmakers on these purchases, and price for makeshift temporary housing, rectify their inability to get the most for OUR money, especially, when they know, perfectly well, citizen tax payers: city, county, state and country, are demanding so much more for OUR money BEFORE it is spent.
AHEM! Decision makers, do not pat yourselves on the backs, your track record is DISMAL. So will be your vote tally, that is, if you have the nerve to show your faces in another campaign. Booooooooooooo!!!
A slap in our faces does not describe these actions suitably enough. These are acts are a kick in our teeth.
Eric Caine says
Lou Valero: Mr. Hawn sits on many boards and committees having to do with housing and land use. He leased the building to the county (taxpayer dollars) before putting it up for sale and now looks to sell it to the taxpayers for a nice ROI.
Gary Wheeler, architect says
Front door is not even handicap accessible! It was built in the 1920s probably and Hawn the engineer used it as an office building for his structural company. This might be the same building that had “Poor Boy Office Supply” earlier.
The engineering company apparently got bought up by Lionakis Design Group who opened an office at the corner of I and 12th. In an old title insurance building. The Sacramento based expansion crazy Lionakis later shut down the Modesto office after the housing bubble burst. Around 2008.
Lou Valero says
Any idea how long the building sat empty, and when the almost 50% higher price tag was affixed? Save us some digging around. What a time to purchase right in the middle of inflation and what is that term: stagnation? I suppose the excuse for purchasing now is that the price was just going to keep going up and up and up. By golly these shrewd buyers saved us taxpayers a heap of money we did not know we wanted to spend. How much forewarning did the public have before the vote? Did anyone vote against this relic from a by gone era. The entire building will have to be retrofitted since not for same use occupancy. Anyone betting on exactly how much the total cost will be before completion?
Are Hawn’s partners residence of Modesto, or will the money flow outside the area? Did they take bids on the cost to renovate? Who were the bidders? Were they all local? That would have been the least they could do is keep the money local, especially since it all seems way too pricey. But then who are we to query at the price tag, we are only the ones footing the bill. Is this where we all sing “Que sera, sera” in unison? What is a lot of money amongst taxpayers? Is this not what we are good for: cogs in the wheel, pawn?
Tell me, when do they get down to parting with the money to house those already houseless? Since Modesto City Council and Focus on Prevention is feeling so generous with other peoples money, that they do not mind asking for further handouts for this 9th Street project, they must know of a lot more money tucked away someplace for the numero uno (best and most important) need, that better be on their agenda.
It it time to, at long last, to finally get up off their der·ri·ères, to fulfill their God given obligations and responsibility to house all the houseless human beings so legitimately in need of much better treatment.
How could these officials and land speculators dare stall any longer from placing the houseless in permanent homes, after this 9th Street fiasco? How many people are they planning to cram into the 14 residential units on 9th? Did they have to change the zoning? If so, they can certainly change the zoning in a number of other neighborhoods across Modesto. If not, they can still certainly change the zoning in multiple locations all across Modesto. We do not want to hear any more excuses, do we?
Perhaps Mr. Hawn and partners want to donate the ROI on the 9th Street building to purchase something substantial to support some more individuals, next time for the truly houseless not just in danger of. If Hawn has prowess in the real estate field, there is no telling what he can come up with to focus, not only, on prevention but on solutions.
We challenge you Mr. Hawn to see what you can come up with as soon as possible. I hear we cannot take it with us, might as well spend it while you can. Pray about it…the tiny house movement is sprouting up tiny villages all over California and the USA. People do not have to live in McMansions, those are becoming obsolete. After being houseless, we can imagine, a tiny home is a blessing. People who were never homeless are flocking to downsize and save money. These are the homes of the future.
Mr. Hawn, purchase some land for the houseless and get your buddies to donate a tiny house or two or three. You will feel so good after you do, we know it and you know it… Tiny house architects are standing by willing to show off their skills for next to nothing or free, to drum up more business. If there is a will, there is a way. We know we are not telling you anything, your a savvy man around town…
A few questions, when would this huge project be finished?
How many of the Houseless community will have to suffer until this huge undertaking is available to them?
How long was this building on the market?
Didn’t the last bubble burst?
A time to buy would be better after the bubble bursts?
Isn’t the need more urgent?
It seems like it should be a conflict for a city to purchase a property owned by a council member!