MERCED, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – Before City Council sat down to look at the first draft of the budget, residents rallied outside to urge the council to include more money for affordable housing. 

The City of Merced said they took a survey and talked to a focus group about the top community priorities they want to see in the budget.

They say the top response from the focus group was affordable housing, but many community members say they do not feel like the budget reflects that. 

“Enough is enough. It’s time for the 209 to recognize that we have young people here, we have a UC here, we have a community college here, my son is here and we can’t even find a decent place for him to live on his own,” Community member Elysse Redden said.

Elysse Redden said the city needs to spend more money on housing. She thinks Merced is relying too heavily on state and federal programs and grants. 

“There’s enough money there to be allocated. At least allocate it. Instead of just fire, police, and parks and recreation,” Redden said. 

The city is looking at a $383.4 million budget with $56.9 million in the general fund. 

City budget documents show the city does have $7.7 million allocated for affordable housing programs and has gotten millions in grants from the city and the state.

Documents also show a recent grant for $24 million to help house the homeless in a motel with Project Home Key. 

Redden and others who rallied Monday and spoke in front of the council are asking the city to put forward at least 5 million more for housing.

“I’m asking you guys to please help our community, and to stop the cycle of traumatizing our kids with homelessness,” one resident said. 

Hoping it helps pay for programs and staff who would help advocate for residents and build more affordable housing in the city.  Rally organizers say just 5% of the need has been met for building affordable housing in the city.  But 106% of the need has been met for high-income residents in the city. 

“I want to be able to come back to Merced, and I want to be able to grow my roots here, where I was born and raised because Merced is a great place, but I want to be able to raise my kids here knowing I am not going to lose my house,” another resident said. 

Nothing was voted on Monday, and there are still two more budget discussions before the budget is finalized in June.

The city budget discussed at Monday’s meeting can be found here.