Newsom promised 1,200 tiny homes for homeless Californians. A year later, none have opened

Newsom promised 1,200 tiny homes for homeless Californians. A year later, none have opened

Relevant News
5/23/2024
An emergency non-congregate housing site in Chico on Sept. 6, 2023. Photo by Fred Greaves for CalMatters

BY MARISA KENDALL MAY 23, 2024

In March 2023, Gov. Gavin Newsom stood before a crowd in Sacramento’s Cal Expo event center and made a promise: He’d send 1,200 tiny homes to shelter homeless residents in the capital city and three other places throughout the state.

The move was part of Newsom’s push to improve the homelessness crisis by quickly moving people out of encampments and into more stable environments. But more than a year later, none of those tiny homes have welcomed a single resident. Only about 150 have even been purchased.

Irontown Modular, one of six vendors the state chose to supply the tiny homes in Sacramento, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego County, is “absolutely shocked” that they’ve received no orders, said Kam Valgardson, general manager of the Utah-based company.

“The big problem is that the homeless people aren’t getting served,” Valgardson said. “I can complain as a business, but these homeless people are getting no support, no relief. The money’s been promised, but something’s broken in the process and nobody’s placing orders.”

There have been multiple delays and about-faces, over everything from the way the state is funding the units to the ability of local cities and counties to find places to put them. The state has suggested the delays are the fault of local governments. But tiny homes have failed to materialize even when local leaders moved quickly to approve a project site.

In some cases, it’s difficult to know exactly what’s holding up these projects. Communications involving the governor’s office are exempt from the California Public Records Act. Multiple requests by CalMatters for emails between the governor’s office and the cities and counties slated to receive the tiny homes were denied.

The state has started construction at the Sacramento tiny home site, and has made funding available to the other three cities and counties to buy their own tiny homes — delivering on its promise, Monica Hassan, deputy director of the state’s Department of General Services, said in an email to CalMatters. That bolsters the state’s “already substantial efforts to help tackle the homelessness crisis,” she said.

“Focusing solely on timelines diminishes the hard work of numerous individuals dedicated to providing much-needed housing,” she said.

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