Gov. Newsom will send funding to San Jose, not premade tiny homes as promised

At a Vietnamese New Year’s celebration at San Jose City Hall, Monday, Mayor Matt Mahan, (D) San Jose, mulled the latest wrinkle in one of his plans to shelter some of his city’s unhoused residents.

"The important thing is we get these units built, and we get people out of encampments and indoors," said Mahan.

Last March, Gov. Gavin Newsom, (D) California, promised to use state funds and enlist the state’s National Guard, to build and deliver 1,200 tiny homes around California, including to San Jose.

"When that individual is ready, we’ll have a place to go at least another option in terms of the alternatives to living on the streets or sidewalks," Newsom said at the time.

Officials with the governor’s office have now said the state will send cities $12.7 million, not pre-constructed tiny homes. For San Jose, the breakdown works out to $63,500 per tiny home. The unit price, according to the state, would be $13,225 per tiny home, plus the cost of site preparation and construction. City officials said those costs could be considerable and create a financial gap.

"Providing the state funds to purchase small homes at a state-negotiated rate still delivers on our original commitment," according to the governor’s office.

"This happens a lot. Politicians make promises, they don’t deliver. And you know, the people die in the meantime," said Pastor Scott Wagers, of CHAM Deliverance Ministry.

Pastor Scott Wagers has spent decades working to provide necessities for the South Bay’s unhoused residents. He’s been an ardent opponent of the tiny homes plan and sees the latest change as representative of his years-long struggle.

"It’s an affront to all people of conscience who really try hard to house people," he said. "For advocates, it’s a crisis. Because we watch and know the people, and watch them perish. But politicians say things. And it’s convincing, and it sounds good, but look at the facts."

The fact, according to San Jose’s mayor, is that this governor’s change in plans will produce a shortfall in funding for 200 tiny homes that are slated to be built on the Valley Transportation Authority Cerone site in North San Jose. Mahan remained confident that the city council will find money in a budget surplus that could shrink into deficit territory in the coming year.

"I understand we’ve got some budget challenges over the next year or two. But we’re gonna keep pushing in Sacramento for funding to be devoted to expanding our shelter system, our in-patient system. So we can require people to come indoors from encampments. That’s the formula," said Mahan.

Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter), @JesseKTVU and on Instagram, @jessegontv