Homeless encampment
A homeless encampment on the San Diego River. Courtesy of the city

The Board of Supervisors Tuesday unanimously approved a joint agreement with the city of San Diego and two other organizations to apply for $12 million in state funding to develop 41 supportive housing units in the El Cerrito community.

The county and city governments will apply for Homekey Program money along with the San Diego Housing Commission, a public agency, and the nonprofit PATH Ventures, which builds affordable housing.

In a statement after the vote, board Chairman Nathan Fletcher said county is working with its partners “to tackle homelessness and build more affordable housing than any other time in its history. This new Homekey development opportunity is an important piece of our broader vision to tackle some of the region’s most pressing challenges.”

The Homekey Program allows governmental entities to develop various types of housing. If the state approves its application over the next few weeks, the county and its partners will build the housing units above a new multicultural family counseling center, located on El Cajon Boulevard and 55th Street. The complex would house up to 75 at-risk residents and feature studio units, along with one- and two-bedroom apartments.

As part of the project agreement, the county will spend $11 million, according to Fletcher’s office.

Supervisors passed the item as part of the consent agenda, in which the board votes on an array of routine items all at once — a move that one resident criticized during a public comment period.

The woman said the project is not a routine item, and that a “huge number of residents were not informed” about it. She said the project would be located directly across from a school, and near homes.

“They’re gonna have all these homeless people right smack-dab in the middle of our neighborhood,” she said.

But another woman praised the board for its action, saying Homekey helped her find a place to live. “I’m so grateful this is on the agenda,” she said. “Not all homeless individuals are violent or a deficit to the community.”

In a related action, supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved $12 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act money to build housing for low-income families.

The supervisors’ vote came after an update on county efforts to build more affordable housing, including for senior citizens, low-income families, the mentally ill and those with special needs.

David Estrella, director of Housing and Community Development Services, said that along with 10 projects it has recently completed, the county is also securing financing for over 21 projects throughout the county.

City News Service contributed to this article.