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The Manteca tax that make more homeless
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The Inn by the Station is not the Rose Motel of yesteryear or even of five years ago.

Once serving as one of Manteca’s first modern motor hotels (or motel in today’s vernacular), the Rose Motel slipped downward when Highway 99 abandoned Moffat Boulevard and moved to its present alignment in 1955.

By the 1990s, it had become a haven for the underbelly of society. It also emerged as the last resort for people who have become homeless and are desperately trying to avoid the streets.

The property has had a number of owners over the years. Recently it shifted from daily rentals to weekly rentals. At the same time the current owner instituted a policy restricting stays to 30 days. The result has been a reduction in unsavory types and an upswing in people just a step from the street.

It is against that background the current owner is laboring to fix a list of deficiencies by Tuesday that were deemed essential to avoid the fire and public works departments working in conjunction with county health from shutting the 16-unit complex down and forcing current residents onto the street.

Manteca has made dealing with homeless issues a top priority. The last thing the city would want to do is to create more homeless. That wasn’t the intention of the code enforcement crackdown triggered by a renter who complained to officials about what they perceived were health and safety issues.

While no one is paying $300 a week as one guest of the Inn the Station claimed a week ago, a few select units with kitchenettes cost $200 a week while the rest go for $100 a week.

The renters are indeed “guests” based on the 30-day cap.

Since it is not operated as a boarding house per se, those renting the rooms are subject to Manteca’s 9 percent transit occupancy tax that the management dutifully collects and turns over to the city. That’s at least $7,488 paid a year to the city if all rooms were rented and all 16 were charged $100 a week.

As transit occupancy tax collections go, that’s a drop in the bucket compared to what the Best Western, Holiday Inn Express, and Hampton Inn among others generate each year. But for those staying there — including single moms with children — desperately trying to stay off the streets, the extra $28 tacked on to pay the city imposed tax during the course of a stay is a big deal.

Back in the mid-1990s when the council at the time first imposed the TOT, a debate over several months led elected leaders to exclude boarding houses — basically second floor room rentals downtown — and a teachers’ dorm nearby on Sycamore Avenue from the 1910s-1920s that had been converted to such use. They did not deem the city’s very low income as being transient.

What they didn’t count on was the strategy employed by the Inn and the Station as well as the renovated Motel 6 to avoid Manteca’s shelter challenged and most poor residents from essentially moving into their motels as if they were apartment complexes and staying for extended periods of time. The working poor and many trying to survive on assistance or disability insurance often can’t afford the first month’s rent and security deposit to obtain an apartment nor do they have a good credit history.

Unfortunately that is the same set of problems that many excessive substance abusers and some among the criminal element have as well when it comes to housing.

The owner inspired 30-day caps on stays has significantly cleaned up inexpensive motels that had been turned into de facto boarding houses to address Manteca’s unmet very low housing needs.

That said taking essentially taking $28 a month out of the pocket of a Manteca resident struggling to keep a roof over their head is counterproductive given the amount of resources that the city and community is devoting to address problems created by people who are already homeless.

To simply drop the TOT requirement imposed on all motels where extended stays beyond 30 days are not allowed if the guest is using the room as their only shelter is problematic at best. Not only would it sweep the criminal element of Manteca into the same exemption but motel management and the city would then be saddled with the Herculean tax of determining who is and who isn’t a long-term room renter and either collect or not collect tax accordingly.

But to collect the $28 a week tax from the single mom who clearly isn’t a tourist and is a Manteca resident by definition trying to stay off the street is unconscionable given the city’s aggressive stance on the homeless. By depriving the very low income of $28  a week to pay a tax orientated toward travelers, visitors and tourists is putting a major financial burden on city residents who aren’t guilty of anything expect being very poor.

Perhaps the city can take the TOT collected from such motels and dedicate a set percentage — or all of it — to non-profit and services aimed at helping the homeless get back on their feet or assisting the very poor from becoming homeless.

A precedent to share TOT taxes in such a manner is how the city helps fund the Convention & Visitors Bureau. But instead of the money being used to attract more visitors and in turn generate more tax receipts for city use, helping the homeless or about-to-become homeless would be investing in a manner aimed at cutting municipal expenses.