The Marin Housing Authority has unanimously approved a voucher program to relocate residents living in boats on Richardson Bay into long-term housing on the mainland, the county announced Wednesday.

The county estimates that there are roughly 60 people living in vessels or houseboats on Richardson Bay, which is in southeastern Marin County and has long been a lightning rod pitting people living in illegal anchored-out boats versus the county.

The program was approved Tuesday at the Marin Housing Authority’s commission meeting and will enable the county to access $3 million secured from state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, as part of an agreement with the Richardson Bay Regional Agency (RBRA). McGuire made an amendment to the 2022 state budget to give Marin County $5 million in funding to go toward homelessness.

“For safety, security, public access and environmental reasons, the current situation is simply not tenable.”

Brad Gross, Richardson Bay Regional Agency executive director

As part of the agreement, MHA will provide subsidized housing and housing assistance to local landlords to “create new affordable housing opportunities” for up to 17 households per year under a three-year contract, according to the county.

RBRA has a mandate from the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission to relocate all the vessels off the anchorage by Oct. 15, 2026.

The county says the boats are “critically” damaging the eelgrass ecosystem in the Bay that provides protection from climate change and supports fisheries.

“For safety, security, public access and environmental reasons, the current situation is simply not tenable,” RBRA executive director Brad Gross said in a statement.

On Jan. 3, a federal judge blocked the seizure by RBRA of a man’s boat on Richardson Bay after he filed suit.

Last summer, the RBRA unanimously approved a buy-back program offering up to $5,200 to people willing to remove or cede their vessels as part of the agency’s push to remove all boats by 2026.