Father Joe’s Villages proposes converting motels into housing for homeless

SAN DIEGO – Father Joe’s Villages Thursday unveiled a countywide plan to address homelessness by converting underused motels into around 2,000 units of affordable housing.

Deacon Jim Vargas, the charity’s president and CEO, said at a news conference that funding has been identified for around 75 percent of the anticipated $531 million cost of the plan, which would also include building on empty lots.

He first mentioned the plan last week at a special City Council meeting dedicated to homeless issues.

“With over 1,000 people sleeping on the streets of downtown on any given night, now is the time to forge bold solutions,” Vargas said.

“San Diego currently has the lowest rental vacancy rate in the country, and the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is over $1,700,” he said. “Our homelessness crisis will not be resolved until we create more housing that people can afford.”

The plan would renovate 1,240 motel rooms outside the downtown area. The rest would be located downtown at Fifth Avenue and Ash Street, and three places along Commercial Street between 14th and 17th streets.

He said transforming underused lots and disregarded motels into thousands of housing units across the county can be “that foundation for change.”

The new housing would be paired with social services to help those being served stay in the housing.

Father Joe’s Villages expects to start renovations on some motel properties this year and to break ground on new buildings next year. The organization anticipates that people will begin moving into the converted motel units by the middle of next year.