Council OKs plan to build more housing for the homeless

City council approves funding to convert the Majestic Inn Motel at Noble and Lindwood into 42 units of permanent housing for the homeless

VISALIA – Visalia will be adding 42 more units of housing for those experiencing homelessness after narrowly approving a project this week questioned by some members of the council and the public.

At its July 18 meeting, the Visalia City Council voted 3-2 to provide funding for 42 permanent and affordable rental units for those experiencing homelessness at the Majestic Inn Motel. Councilmembers Steve Nelsen, Greg Collins and Liz Wynn voted in favor of the funding while Brian Poochigian and Brett Taylor voted in opposition. The funding was awarded to RH Community Builders (RHCB) to convert the Majestic Inn Motel, located at 4545 West Noble Ave., into a 42-unit housing complex for at-risk individuals.

The project is being funded with $1.8 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) HOME Investment Partnerships program of the American Rescue Plan Act (HOME-ARP) funds. The goal of HOME-ARP is to reduce homelessness by increasing housing stability across the country. Eligible uses for these funds involve the development of permanent affordable rental housing, non congregate shelters, tenant based rental assistance and supportive services.

Visalia housing specialist Majorie Perez said those who qualify for this program are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of becoming homeless but also includes those fleeing domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, human trafficking and anyone at the greatest risk of housing instability. Any foster youth aged 18-24 and seniors 62 or older are also eligible for the project.

To ensure stability, Perez said the site will undergo inspections and have site controls in place. There will be an onsite manager that lives on the premises at all times as well as individual case managers for each of these units.

Following the Citizens Advisory Committee Public Opinion Survey, Perez said survey residents agree that “the number one need for the city is homeless solutions.”

Machael Smith from RH Community Builders said the site would be an apartment complex and not a shelter. Residents would have to pay 30% of their income for rent and sign a lease agreement with all binding legalities. She also said 25% of the units are set aside for those coming out of foster youth or engaging with plans for college.

“They’re just like any other beautiful new complex that’s put up in a community,” Smith said. “They have an on-site Community Center, on-site staff to support clients with any needs they have getting connected to services. You wouldn’t even know that it’s any different than any other complex.”

A concerned resident said the council should deny the project based on its proximity to businesses like Chuck E. Cheese, Roller Town and DEFY Visalia trampoline park, all of which cater to children. There was also concern of the project interfering with tourism.

“Are you ready to give away free money just to destroy our own local businesses with this permanent housing?,” she said.

Doug Niederreiter, representing a business adjacent to the project site, said anything is better than the current state of the site. His concern boiled down to the long term effect the project could have on the city.

“Is there any sort of a commitment from the city or is there going to be anything in place to ensure that the dollars spent and the good work that is done up front continues for a long term?” Neiderreiter said.

Mayor Nelsen understood the complexity of the situation with the neighborhood and neighboring businesses not being notified of the project prior to the council meeting. He clarified the importance of this project after residents and council members continuously referred to the project as a “shelter.”

“This is long term housing,” Nelsen said.

Early on, Mayor Nelsen drew attention to the ways the project would benefit foster youth and senior citizens experiencing homelessness. 

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