Converting Hotels for Homelessness

U.C. Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation recently presented a new, in-depth analysis of 13 hotel acquisition projects designed to address homelessness across the country. Following an unprecedented inflow of federal and state resources during the COVID-19 pandemic, city and state housing agencies worked to convert hotels and motels into affordable and permanent supportive housing as quickly as possible. The new report looks at what worked and why, as well as lessons learned and remaining challenges for this promising approach to increasing the supply of affordable and supportive housing. In terms of conversions that worked well, the report lists:

  • Extended stay hotels, because they already had bathrooms and kitchenettes

  • Locations within easy walking distance of public transportation, a grocery store, and other necessities and possible sources of employment

  • Newer buildings that were already mostly up to code and could be easily retrofitted

  • Areas with legislation in place to ease regulations and streamline approval processes

  • Projects that included funds for operating costs and rental vouchers, in addition to capital acquisition and renovation

  • Bringing together nonprofit organizations and commercial developers to evaluate a site’s costs of renovations before acquiring property

Lessons learned included:

  • Older buildings often required significant and costly renovation in order to be brought up to code for ADA requirements, sprinkler systems, etc.

  • Projects in areas that did not have laws in place to streamline approvals sometimes met strong opposition from local parties, slowing the process considerably

  • Acquiring properties can be a challenge in tight markets where other potential buyers may have more cash and be able to move more quickly

  • Having dedicated, flexible, single-source funding was key to being able to acquire properties and get projects done

More information about the event and the report are available on the Terner Center site.