Big City Mayors Ask State for $20 Billion to Curb Homelessness

California’s Big City Mayors, a coalition of mayors from the 13 largest cities, are calling on the state to allocate half of its $40 billion surplus to local governments to curb and end homelessness.

The ask: $4 billion per-year, five-year investment for a total of $20 billion in flexible funding as part of the state budget.

“There’s no question it’s a big investment,” coalition chair and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said at a virtual news conference on Thursday. “But spending half of a surplus on the biggest problem we faced in California, and making that commitment last for a half decade, that’s money well spent.”

With the combination of the state’s $26 billion in federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan and the record surplus, mayors see this as a unique opportunity to make drastic impacts for the states 161,000 unhoused residents.

Mayors are calling the surplus a “generational opportunity,” because, economic challenges make it difficult to identify an ongoing revenue source.

If approved, the funding would be roughly 10 times greater than any funding the cities have received in the past, Sacramento Mayor Darell Steinberg said.

Steinberg noted that even with a fraction of what they are asking for now, cities have been able to house hundreds of residents with state money from Project Roomkey, Project Homekey and other initiatives.

In a letter to State senate and assembly leaders, mayors wrote that through Project Homekey, cities were able to create transitional housing at $148,000 per unit.

“Based on the average cost of our Project Homekey success, a four-year allocation of $16 billion that we’ve outlined could create more than 100,000 homes—or enough to permanently house nearly every Californian who entered a homeless shelter in 2020,” the letter reads.

Steinberg also noted that additional resources could support those dealing with rent struggles, prevent evictions and prevent people from losing their homes - essentially preventing homelessness.

“Imagine a California with these kinds of investments,” he said.

Mayors emphasized that the funding would need to be flexible because every city has unique ways in addressing and combating homeless.

In San Jose, the city utilized state funding to build three interim housing sites on neglected public land within months, Liccardo said.

“Building apartments in the Bay Area typically costs about $700,000 per apartment unit and requires four or five years to build in a development cycle,” Liccardo said. “We’ve shown we can do this... in less than six months at a fifth of the cost.”

San Francisco used its state funding to create more than 9000 permanent housing placements through initiatives like purchasing hotels, its Mayor London Breed said.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf also touted her city’s success by pointing to a couple of “unique initiatives” that have allowed the city to double the number of residents sheltered over the last year.

Initiatives include creating safe RV parks, buying and transforming an old college dormitory into housing and even purchasing single-family homes to create a haven for homeless seniors to live together.

“We know how to fix this problem. Each of our jurisdictions have done detailed analyses and have regional plans in the Bay Area,” Schaaf said. “We just need the resources.”

Schaaf pointed to the regional Bay Area action plan created by nonprofit All Home that seeks to shrink the region’s homeless population by 75 percent in three years by following the 1-2-4 framework.

Essentially, this means for every one unit of interim housing built, there should be two units of permanent housing and four units of homeless prevention interventions to keep people housed.

The last part of the framework, which could look like accelerated cash payments, income-targeted rental assistance and other housing support, is the most important aspect she said.

“What we’re seeing is we’re getting people out of homelessness, but new people are becoming homeless at a faster rate,” Schaaf said.

She continued that a solution to homelessness is what residents wanted too.

Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln echoed this sentiment as well.

“Over 80 percent of Stockton residents view homelessness as a humanitarian crisis affecting the quality of life for all Stocktonians,” Lincoln said.

So how likely is it that the Big City Mayors get their request met?

Well, already State Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins and Speaker Anthony Rendon have voiced their support, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

The $4 billion yearly funding for housing and homelessness is also listed as budget priorities, released earlier this week, for both the state assembly and state senate.

If passed, the funding would likely be split between cities and counties, with more funding going to entities with more homelessness, Liccardo said.

“The allocation typically is based on a formula that combines both point in time, homeless counts and population and so we expect those kinds of formulas to continue,” Liccardo said. “And we’ll be certainly advocating to ensure that the hardest hit cities, after all it’s large cities that have suffered most from homelessness, are in fact, front and center.”

It won’t be an easy road, but the mayors said they are hopeful.

“We just have a sense of optimism here,” Riverside Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson said. “We can begin to move the needle, we can begin to make a change.”

The Big City Mayors coalition includes Mayors from Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Fresno, Sacramento, Long Beach, Oakland, Bakersfield, Anaheim, Riverside, Santa Ana and Stockton.


  1. Well in SJ Devcon, Swenson, Garden City, Sobrato and all the other city sponges must be drooling in anticipation for their pal Sam to acquire more Monopoly play money.

  2. Now that we’re letting another 76,000 violent felons out of prison we’re going to have a whole lot more homeless wandering around and crime to deal with. It will take decades to get them all back in jail after Gavin is gone. Until that happens, 20 billion isn’t going to cut it.

  3. CA could spend $20T and you would only have more homeless.

    I mean seriously when will you learn money won’t solve this.

    More houses will help, more tough love will help more.

    The cost of housing is 1000% progressives fault – so many activists get their way in constraining supply it is a joke. Bike activists, environmental activists, tenant activists, anti-sprawl activists, and on and on. Its like your controlled opposition to the land owners and land lords. You think you are winning, but you just make the rich far richer. Wake up fool.

    And you can’t deal with homeless altruistically and forgive every thing they do just to spend more on them the farther down the rabbit hole they go. A little harm goes a long may to averting a lot of harm and until you grow up and realize that – the more money you spend on homelessness the more homeless you will create. I can’t believe you have not realized this yet.

    I am sure the NGOs are salivating over that $20B.

    Let’s see – Tahoe condos – tick, Tesla Upgrade – tick, $100K kitchen renovation – tick, movin’ on up to Monte Sereno – tick

    you people are so blinded by the shine of your own virtue signaling you can’t even see the long con right under your nose.

  4. What happens when the borrowed money runs out?
    What happens when hyper-inflation makes the dollar worthless?
    Eliminate funding for all social services.
    Let the diaspora begin with earnest.
    Crack that whip…and whip it good!
    Alert North Dakota, South Dakota and possibly Mississippi for an influx of bay area vagrants.
    David S. Wall

  5. Rather than course or life or POLICY correct, you just went more money from others, as with other projects like the high-speed rail project, a state model.


    You probably will want city operating funds as well, later, pension payment money.

    There are always the feds to look reflexively to, too of course, as with Cal HSR.

    Meanwhile, your “progressive” policies continue to make cities and state worse.

  6. Kinda true. We spent authorized a couple billions dollars in Santa Clara county alone and the homeless population seems to have doubled or tripled after doing so. $$ is not what is needed. Institutions to house and treat the drug addicted and mentally ill will help. State owned motels for them to shoot up in won’t help. We also urgently need gang intervention and trade skill training for all of the 70,000 violent felons the CA government will be releasing under Gavin’s watch.

  7. It is so good to see neoliberal mayors, one after another, admitting that it is only public ownership of housing that makes it affordable and that can quickly and directly addresses houselessness. Project Homekey, whose first round of funding was disbursed in mid-September 2020, has now committed a total of $600 million ($50 million in state funds and $550 million in federal Coronavirus Aid Relief Funds). Those funds have been allocated to local and county public entities and tribal governments around the state allowing them to directly purchase and rehabilitate hotels, motels, vacant apartment buildings and other buildings and convert them into interim or permanent, long-term housing (;

    Ms, Kadah’s article notes some of the significant initial results of this program in various cities. (For a complete list of Homekey projects funded in 2020, see By cutting out the middlemen, i.e. profit-seeking landlords, even neoliberal exemplar Mayor Sam Liccardo admits that the per door costs of producing such housing was in the range of $140,000 in San Jose in 2020, one-fifth the estimated average cost of producing an apartment unit in the Bay Area. With governments directly intervening and purchasing property, the non-market solution produces almost immediate results.

    Just think, if neoliberals overcome their market solutions addiction, they may come to the conclusion that actually building public housing from scratch is a relatively low-cost, effective, albeit longer-term, way to attack houselessness and the lack of affordability generally. As I have argued elsewhere, the example of public housing on public university campuses is an excellent template for local and county governments for constructing affordable and livable social housing (

    Even more important, public (and private) university campuses in California provide a template for urban and regional planners as to ways to make cities more livable, convenient and affordable. Universities commingle and juxtapose housing, work, leisure, community, transport and open spaces in compact, creative and effective ways. Local urban planners committed to social equity and environmental sustainability should be studying university campuses for the many, many ways they shine light on livable futures for all of us.

  8. Keep spending other people’s money Democrats, that’s always a winning solution to the problems you create.

  9. If the money is to be spent on “housing,” it will not cure homelessness. The homeless need to have mental health and drug / alcohol in-patient services. The ones who engage in anti-social behavior (crime) need to go to jail.

    While transitional house will solve a small portion of the homelessness crisis, it will not address the root cause. Until the cities, counties and state are willing to define the problem accurately, they cannot develop a solution. They can, however, continue to build an industrial/homelessness complex.

  10. We need to open the 150-acre Santa Clara County Fairgrounds now. Like today. People are needless dying on the streets when there is a viable option available that can save lives. The Fairgrounds are under utilized. Only 1.7% of Santa Clara County residents use the Fairgrounds. I suggest using one of the empty halls as a crisis center where various support services are available 24/7. We can use the FEMA model for setting up an encampment on some of the vacant acreage. We can bring in trailers that were promised to be at the Fairgrounds that never arrived. We can use part of the vacant land as a safe parking space. We can use one of the unused buildings as a shelter for at-risk women to ensure they sleep safely at night. There is an industrial kitchen just sitting there growing cobwebs. The citizens of Santa Clara own the Fairgrounds. It is up to our elected officials to utilize the Fairgrounds in the best interest of the citizens. If our elected officials continue to ignore this request, we will vote them out. The time is now to open the Fairgrounds.

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