icon of a house with keys inside for the Homekey program

Project Homekey

Latest Update

In July of 2020, the State of California launched a $750 million program called “Project Homekey”, with the aim of helping local communities rapidly acquire hotels, motels, commercial buildings, and other creative housing types in order to rapidly house people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. By December 29, 2020, the program had resulted in the acquisition of 94 projects, representing 6,029 units of permanent housing for individuals experiencing homelessness. In Marin County specifically, we received approximately $8.6 million to aid the purchase of 63 new units of permanent supportive housing in San Rafael and Corte Madera (more info about our local effort).

Given the success of “Homekey 1.0”, in January of 2021, Governor Newsom’s proposed FY21-22 budget included another $750 million allocation for “Project Homekey 2.0”. While this funding has yet to be approved by the Legislature, if the speed of Homekey 1.0 is any indication, approval and a new call for applications could come as early as May, and we would likely be facing the same expedited timeline of closing on properties by the end of the calendar year.

To that end, the weeks of April 12thand April 19th, Opening Doors Marin, in partnership with the County of Marin, is hosting a series of ten community information sessions about a possible “Homekey 2.0”. The goal of these sessions is to provide an overview of Homekey 1.0, describe what Homekey 2.0 might look like, and solicit community feedback about both the process and possible projects. We hope you can join and provide your feedback!

Project Homekey 2.0 in Marin flyer for several information sessions in April on Zoom

Click on the flyer to enlarge

 Homekey 2.0 Info Sessions:

To sign up for an info session, click your preferred date/time from the list above. All sessions are open to the public and will present the same information. Presenters will answer questions and gather input on community needs. The sessions will not discuss specific potential HomeKey sites, but rather general criteria for what would make a feasible site. If you have a potential site in mind, please feel free to share that information with Opening Doors at info@openingdoorsmarin.org.


Building on the success of Project Roomkey, Homekey is the next phase in the state’s response to protecting Californians experiencing homelessness who are at high risk for serious illness and are impacted by COVID-19. Administered by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), $600 million in grant funding has been made available to local public entities, including cities, counties, or other local public entities, including housing authorities or federally recognized tribal governments within California to purchase and rehabilitate housing, including hotels, motels, vacant apartment buildings, and other buildings and convert them into interim or permanent, long-term housing. On October 9, 2020, Governor Newsom announced that Marin County received grant funding through Homekey.

Below, you will find frequently asked questions about Project Homekey, the County of Marin's application to HCD, and staff reports and presentations. Questions may be directed to Ashley Hart McIntyre, Homelessness Policy Analyst with Health and Human Services.

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Frequently Asked Questions FAQs

Note: These frequently asked questions are being updated as this project evolves.

  • What is Project Homekey?

    Homekey is the next phase in the state’s response to protecting Californians experiencing homelessness who are at high risk for serious illness and are impacted by COVID-19. The Homekey program is an opportunity to increase the supply of permanent housing available to people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. The State is providing grants funds to counties to purchase and or rehabilitate properties to be used as interim and permanent housing.

  • How were properties identified?

    In response to the State’s Homekey program, the County sent out a notice to owners of motels, asking for their interest in selling their property and received two responses which were included in the Homekey application. These were:

    • 1591 Casa Buena Drive in Corte Madera (America’s Best Value Inn)
    • 250 Entrada Drive in Novato (Inn Marin)

    There was also a commercial property owner in San Rafael who proactively reached out to the affordable housing community when he learned about the Project Homekey effort:

    • 3301 Kerner Boulevard in San Rafael, a vacant commercial property
  • When did Marin County apply for Homekey funds?

    On August 11, The Marin County Board of Supervisors authorized staff to apply for Homekey funds. The County is working alongside its valued partners including Opening Doors Marin, to use funds from the Homekey program as part of our ongoing commitment to Housing First[1], understanding that housing is essential to a successful response to homelessness.

    In September, the County received notification from the State that one project, located at 1591 Casa Buena Drive in Corte Madera, would receive a funding reservation if the County was able to meet aggressive milestones; the other two projects were waitlisted. In the Bay Area, there were $300 million worth of applications submitted, and only $100 million available in Homekey funds for the region. Therefore, the County did not anticipate that it would be funded for the waitlisted projects. However, on October 9, the County received notice that the two waitlisted projects would be funded, contingent on the County meeting the State’s accelerated timeline.

    [1] 'Housing First' is a recovery-oriented approach to ending homelessness that centers on quickly moving people experiencing homelessness into independent and permanent housing and then providing additional supports and services as needed.

  • Why wasn’t there more community outreach early on in the process?

    The short turn around and accelerated timeline is a challenge and not how affordable housing is typically created in this county. However, the ambitious nature of Homekey is a direct response to the public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The federal funds must be spent by the end of the year or they will be forfeited by the State and not available to help address the homelessness crisis related to the pandemic.

    Therefore, the State is providing counties across California very limited time to apply and close on proposed properties, leaving limited time for public engagement and community outreach. People experiencing unsheltered homelessness (those sleeping outside or in places not meant for human habitation) and those living in overcrowded housing may be at risk for infection when there is community spread of COVID-19.

    Addressing housing needs benefits the public health of our whole community.

  • Will the Homekey sites be shelter?

    The Homekey sites will be used as interim housing in the short-term and converted to permanent housing by 2022. This temporary use will not look like what most people think of when they think of homeless shelters: a big-city shelter with lines around the block every night.

    Clients will be admitted by referrals from community agencies like hospitals and nonprofits and will be allowed to stay as long as they are working on a housing plan with their case manager. This process creates a stable population that is able to focus on their next steps toward permanent housing.

  • Who will live there?

    Homekey properties are for people who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness. The America’s Best Value Inn in Corte Madera and 3301 Kerner in San Rafael would house single adults. Inn Marin in Novato would house families with children.

  • How will residents be chosen?

    For interim housing, people will be referred by an agency that is working with the client, including Adopt A Family, St. Vincent de Paul Society of Marin, Ritter Center, Marin County Health & Human Services, and others.

    For permanent supportive housing, people will be referred through the Coordinated Entry Program, which will prioritize the people who are most vulnerable. During the pandemic, the people who are: “most vulnerable” are defined as those who are:

    • Disabled;
    • Have long histories of homelessness, and have specific vulnerabilities to COVID, such as seniors, people who are immunocompromised, and people with lung, kidney, liver, or heart disease.
  • Who will operate and provide services to the residents?

    If these sites are acquired, Catholic Charities will run services at the Corte Madera and Novato properties. On September 29th, the San Rafael Planning Commission approved Homeward Bound of Marin to operate a temporary emergency shelter at 3301 Kerner as “Mill Street 2.0” undergoes redevelopment. (Homeward Bound is redeveloping their existing “Mill Street” shelter to include shelter and 32 new units of permanent supportive housing.) This interim housing will allow for the redevelopment at the existing Homeward Bound location to proceed without displacing its residents and adding to local unsheltered homelessness.

    Please note that it is possible that our providers and operators could change over time as these sites would be converted to permanent housing.

  • How many people are homeless in Marin? Will these developments serve people from here?

    The 2019 Point-in-Time Count found 1,034 people experiencing homelessness in Marin. In San Rafael there were 161 people who were unsheltered; 147 in Novato; and 39 in Corte Madera.

    Permanent supportive housing units are assigned to the most vulnerable people appropriate for the placement. While it is not legal to limit these units to only people who live in those cities or in Marin, virtually all of the people who have been placed in permanent supportive housing in Marin so far have had long periods of homelessness in Marin and most were living in Marin when they lost their housing. Many were raised here.

  • If we offer new interim or permanent housing, will more people move to our community for assistance?

    Across the nine Bay Area counties, studies consistently show that 70-85% of the people experiencing homelessness in a given county were living in that county when they lost their housing. In Marin, we have embraced a strategy called “diversion,” which includes assisting people who have roots and connections elsewhere to regain stable housing in a community where they have more support.

  • What are other communities doing?

    Converting motels into housing for people experiencing homelessness has been a very successful practice in other communities, creating new housing in a fraction of the time that new construction takes. The Palms Inn in Santa Rosa is an example of a successful motel conversion, housing 120 homeless people since 2015. Many other California counties are doing similar conversions under Project Homekey.

    Ending homelessness requires creating new housing opportunities for people experiencing homelessness throughout the County. The Homekey properties join several other projects that have opened recently or are opening in the near future that include units for people experiencing homelessness, including:

    • King Street Senior Housing in Larkspur
    • Victory Village in Fairfax
    • The Mill Street redevelopment in San Rafael
    • The Safe Harbor program in Sausalito
  • What services will be provided on site?

    During the interim housing phase, the properties will be staffed 24/7 and residents will be provided with two meals each day, in addition to housing-focused case management, housing location services, and connection to behavioral health services and social services benefits including Medi-Cal and Social Security. For services that are not provided on-site, residents will have access to bus or taxi vouchers as appropriate.

    Once the properties transition to permanent housing, the services will depend on the needs of the clients. All permanent supportive housing includes case management designed to keep people in their housing. This case management must remain flexible to meet the needs of the clients and will continue to connect clients to other services as needed, including assisting them with transportation. Property managers will ensure that the facilities, including the grounds, are kept clean and in good repair.

  • How will participants get around?

    All properties are located within walking distance of a bus stop. Participants will be provided with bus or taxi vouchers, as appropriate, for necessary transportation such as to and from doctor’s appointments or job interviews.

  • How will you ensure safety for residents and neighbors?

    The people we serve tell us that their top concern is also safety! So that is a priority shared by all parties. Our programs operate on a behavioral basis; people are required to behave in a fashion that keeps other residents and neighbors safe. Many studies demonstrate that providing safe, stable housing indoors significantly reduces these issues, and is an important first step in accessing treatment. Very commonly, unsheltered homelessness seriously exacerbates mental health and substance use issues. Studies have also repeatedly shown that permanent supportive housing projects do not increase crime rates.

    The providers we are working with have extensive experience with this population and with both of the program models we’re discussing, and very rarely do safety issues come up. When they do, providers are trained to respond quickly, de-escalate any dangerous situation, and make necessary changes to ensure that the situation does not recur.

    To respond to the concerns expressed by nearby residents, all properties will have security on site. We do work closely with law enforcement partners across the county and are committed to keeping residents and neighbors safe.

  • How do tenants afford to live in these units?

    The Department of Housing and Urban Development defines “affordable housing” as not spending more than 30% of household income on housing expenses. For people who will live in these units, this is not free housing. They will contribute 30% of their income toward rent, and then a subsidy (in this case, federal housing vouchers) will cover the difference between the tenant’s contribution and market rate rent. These housing vouchers will be tied to the units in these sites indefinitely. Additionally, there is no expectation that people need to move out of these units. Our experience is that people find long-term stability in permanent housing and work to integrate themselves into the broader community.

  • How will these units accommodate people with disabilities?

    All three sites have undergone an accessibility determination and are fully in compliance with state and federal compliance.

  • Will this affordable housing affect my property values?

    The vast majority of studies have found that affordable housing does not depress neighboring property values and may even raise them in some cases. Overall, the research suggests that neighbors should have little to fear from the type of attractive and modestly sized developments that constitute the bulk of newly produced affordable housing today.[2]

    [2] “Don’t Put It Here” The Center for Housing Policy
    “There Doesn’t Go the Neighborhood: Low-Income Housing Has No Impact on Nearby Home Values” Trulia

  • How will this affect costs to my City?

    We understand and respect the concerns cities and residents have about the loss of transient occupancy taxes brought in by motels. However, there are monetary and non-monetary benefits to having people in housing rather than on the street. People who move from homelessness to permanent supportive housing have significantly fewer police and paramedic interactions. Their health outcomes improve, meaning a higher quality of life and fewer medical resources needed. In addition, many of the social impacts homelessness has on the broader community are mitigated by housing people. For example, people do not set up tents or sleep in public areas when they have housing.

  • How will you pay for ongoing services?

    Funding for interim housing services will come from federal COVID relief money called ESG-CV. Long-term services in the permanent housing will come from a combination of revenue from vouchers and a variety of Marin County Health and Human Services partnerships, including Whole Person Care, Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, and Social Services. We will not create any program unless there are services appropriate to the population available.

  • These projects seem really expensive. What’s the opportunity cost?

    Marin’s Project Homekey sites cost $150,000 to $250,000 per unit, which is a lot of money. However, across the Bay Area and here in Marin, the average cost of a brand new unit of affordable housing is between $500,000 and $600,000. Therefore, the Homekey projects are a great deal more affordable compared to the status quo approach for creating new housing in our community.

  • What about ongoing costs? The State may be paying to buy the units, but how will you pay for services and operations?

    We are planning to “project base” federal housing vouchers at Inn Marin and America’s Best Value. Housing vouchers do not mean free housing. Tenants pay 30% of their income toward housing, and the voucher covers the remaining portion up to market rent. When a voucher is project based, it is tied to a unit at a particular site into perpetuity. This rental income will cover operating expenses.

    3301 Kerner is located in an area of concentrated poverty. As a result, the federal government does not allow communities to project-base vouchers. Thus, we are exploring long-term master leases for the site.

  • How does this fit in to the other work that’s being done to address homelessness?

    Over the last five years, our community has dramatically improved the way we address homelessness. We now use vulnerability as the key organizing principle for assisting unhoused people, and over the last three years, we have housed nearly 300 of the most vulnerable, long-term homeless individuals in Marin; from 2017 to 2019, we saw a 28% reduction in long-term chronic homelessness (directly related to a 50% increase in permanent supportive housing stock). Over 90% of these people are still housed, and we’ve seen dramatic reductions in healthcare and criminal justice utilization once people are back inside.

    While we never could have anticipated a program like Project Homekey, we have an incredibly collaborative coalition of local service providers who are committed to ensuring that every single person who gets housed has intensive, wraparound support services for as long as they need them. Our goal is to end chronic and veteran homelessness in Marin County by the end of 2022, and Project Homekey is a giant step forward on that path.

Application to HCD

Final Application: 3301 Kerner (San Rafael) | America's Best Value (Corte Madera) | Inn Marin (Novato) 
Attachment 1: TIN Form (same for all)
Attachment 2: Authorizing Resolution (same for all)
Attachment 3: Permanent Housing Certification: 3301 Kerner | America's Best Value | Inn Marin
Attachment 4: Letter of Intent: 3301 Kerner | America's Best Value | Inn Marin
Attachment 7: Applicant Experience (same for all)
Attachment 8: Development Vision: 3301 Kerner | America's Best Value | Inn Marin
Attachment 9: Timeline Template (same for all)
Attachment 10: Development Team Experience (same for all)
Attachment 11: Development Team Flowchart (same for all)
Attachment 12: Similar Project Experience (same for all)
Attachment 13: On-Site and Off-Site Services (same for all)
Attachment 14: Equity Analysis: 3301 Kerner | America's Best Value | Inn Marin
Attachment 17: Experience with Target Population (same for all)
Attachment 18: Reduction in Homelessness: 3301 Kerner | America's Best Value | Inn Marin
Attachment 19: Transit Connection: 3301 Kerner | America's Best Value | Inn Marin
Attachment 20: Essential Services: 3301 Kerner | America's Best Value | Inn Marin
Attachment 21: CEQA Compliance (same for all)
Attachment 22: Budget Workbook: 3301 Kerner | America's Best Value | Inn Marin
Attachment 5: Plan and Timeline for Site Control: 3301 Kerner | America's Best Value | Inn Marin
Attachment 23: Applicant Compliance Certification (same for all)

Note: Missing attachments for the 3301 Kerner and America's Best Value applications will be added in the upcoming week.

Staff Reports and Presentations

8/11/2020: Board of Supervisors approve resolution authorizing the Community Development Agency to apply for and accept Homekey grant funding from the State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD).

Staff Report / Resolution / Attachment

10/20/2020: Board of Supervisors approve resolution brought forward by the Department of Public Works, issuing a Notice of Intent to Purchase Real Property at 1591 Casa Buena Drive, Corte Madera.

Staff Report / Resolution

10/20/2020: Board of Supervisors approve resolution brought forward by the Department of Public Works, issuing a Notice of Intent to Purchase Real Property at 3301 Kerner Boulevard, San Rafael.

Staff Report / Resolution

11/10/2020: Board of Supervisors voted to approve the purchase of both the 3301 Kerner Blvd. (San Rafael) and American's Best Value (Corte Madera) sites, the first step in the conversion of the properties to housing for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness under the state's Homekey program. The Board elected not to pursue the purchase of the Inn Marin (Novato) site.

  • 3301 Kerner Blvd: Staff Report / Resolution / Agreement ((the final documents are in the process of being added to this page. Draft versions of these documents are available through the Board of Supervisors' agenda for November 10, 2020).
  • America's Best Value: Staff Report /  Resolution / Agreement