The pandemic has changed our relationship to each other, and our social and economic spaces (NCJ Daily, May 27). Many people have found a way to work from home, which leaves a lot of business real estate empty. The Bayshore Mall recently went into foreclosure, a trend seen across America, with over half of department stores expected to close in 2021. This is not good news for the economy as we know it, but there is an opportunity here in repurposing these existing structures for the low-income housing we so desperately need.
Examples of developing empty malls into housing can be seen online in cities like Seattle and San Francisco. Some designs include residential units and small retail businesses that create a village atmosphere. California has introduced a bill, Senate Bill 1385, the Neighborhood Homes Act, that would make it easier to convert commercially zoned properties into residential properties. Gov. Newsom has recently pledged $12 billion toward ending homelessness.
I would like to see Humboldt County government work with the state and use this opportunity to acquire unused existing properties, like the mall or office buildings, for the creation of low-income housing. We need housing for all levels of income, but people who have been left out on the street for years should be given priority. When we take care of our most vulnerable, the whole community will feel the benefits.
Peg Anderson, Redway