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Santa Clara County wants more land for affordable housing – San José Spotlight

Santa Clara County is acquiring more land to build hundreds of affordable homes for disadvantaged residents.
On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to purchase four properties in San Jose, Santa Clara and Morgan Hill, which will cost the county more than $17 million and provide 324 apartments.
“I really want to just acknowledge Santa Clara and Morgan Hill and San Jose,” said Supervisor Cindy Chavez. “I really appreciate they’re being so collaborative with the county.”
The projects represent an ongoing campaign to build up the region’s housing stock for veterans, agricultural workers, seniors and people with developmental disabilities. The projects will be partly financed through funds from Measure A—an affordable housing bond approved by voters in 2016.
“These are the type of projects that are exactly what we need,” said Supervisor Otto Lee. “The use of Measure A funding is great.”
Housing instability is an ongoing problem in Silicon Valley. Thousands of residents live on the streets and tens of thousands struggle to pay for basic needs, such as rent. Some cities have invested in affordable housing, but run into significant delays.
County officials have tried to address this need by partnering with cities to build affordable housing. Last month, supervisors approved $75.5 million to build six housing developments—four in San Jose, one in Mountain View and one in Sunnyvale—which will add 758 apartments.
Alex Shoor, executive director of housing advocacy group Catalyze SV, thanked the county for aggressively pursuing affordable housing. He urged supervisors to support projects that maximize the number of homes on a site, and to not be intimidated by community resistance to new housing.
“We don’t think that’s the best reason to not build as many homes as possible on a site,” Shoor said.
One of the sites approved for purchase is the Royal Oak Village at 15440 Monterey Rd. in Morgan Hill. This project calls for 73 new apartments: 18 to rehouse homeless individuals and families, 24 for households earning very low income and 30 for agricultural workers. It also includes one manager unit. Construction is slated to start around July.
Morgan Hill Mayor and District 1 supervisor candidate Rich Constantine told San José Spotlight the county is unaffordable to many people, including essential workers.
“We have to make sure that everybody—our teachers, firefighters, police officers, grocery store workers, bus drivers—have the ability to buy a home,” Constantine said.
Robert Van Tassle, operations manager at Countryside Mushrooms in Gilroy, used to work at the farm where this project will be built. He told San José Spotlight agricultural workers struggle to find affordable places to stay in Silicon Valley.
“It’s tough,” Tassle said. “I’ve had some guys that were looking for housing for quite a long time.”
Another site is 3335 Kifer Rd. in Santa Clara. This project will provide 80 apartments, including permanent housing for homeless seniors and seniors making up to 40%-50% the area median income. Construction is supposed to start in July.
“In 2021, Santa Clara City Council was proud to commit $4 million to this much needed project,” Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor said during a Monday news conference. “As you know, supporting our unhoused residents is a countywide priority, which is one of the reasons we’re participating in the county’s community-wide plan to end homelessness.”
Recent efforts to build housing in Santa Clara without county assistance have been stymied by residents. Last November, the City Council rejected a proposal to build 60 units of transitional housing after scores of residents—some coordinating their talking points in a Discord channel—spoke out against the idea during a city meeting.
Supervisors also approved two sites in San Jose: Roosevelt Park Apartments at 21 N. 21st St. and Algarve Apartments at 1135 E. Santa Clara St. Together, the projects will add 171 apartments for unhoused or low-income seniors and veterans. Construction on Roosevelt Park Apartments is scheduled to start in August; it’s unclear when development of the Algarve Apartments will begin.
Advocates of affordable housing say the cost is worth it if the county can stave off the region’s growing homelessness crisis.
“People are saying the housing is too expensive and unhoused people don’t deserve it—that unhoused people deserve to live in little sheds or temporary housing,” Sandy Perry, president of the Affordable Housing Network of Santa Clara County, told San José Spotlight. “This is the richest place in the entire universe, and to say we can’t house our people with decent apartments is nonsense.”
Contact Eli Wolfe at [email protected] or @EliWolfe4 on Twitter.
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I am against building housing in areas in Coyote Valley that were supposed to be preserved as open space. Keep Coyote Valley open and pristine, any housing development there will damage the ecosystem even if it is for agricultural workers.
This isn’t Coyote Valley. The Morgan Hill site is the now-closed mushroom facility.
Agree.
As a resident of District 3 it appears again we are being signaled out for affordable housing that will have no parking for residents or the necessary retail like a drug store, good schools, grocery stores, etc. Drive down E. Santa Clara Street all the way to Alum Rock and many storefronts are empty and vandalized. This area doesn’t have enough police or fire as it is now and we don’t have any open senior centers, daycare facilities or recreation for youth. Time and time again many people have asked Supervisor Cindy and our city council for services that this new population will need and want but they continue to ignore this issue. We need owner occupied condos to be built so people who work can’t be kicked out because our city council won’t consider rent controlled apartments. Built townhomes and give the working class a chance by offering them money for down payments. In addition, many of the affordable housing developers pay no property taxes, fees for traffic improvement and park fees get waived and the city does not invest in these neighborhoods like mine so nothing ever changes and the crime and blight will never go away.
If you can’t afford to live here then just MOVE. If not for yourself then do it for your family. We don’t have a housing affordability problem. We have a problem of wages being TOO LOW.
Dream on. The article makes clear that much of this effort is to support the essential workers we need and want to be here to work. We are becoming unwilling to force them to commute for hours to get here. We are learning compassion.
In general, our largely free-market economy works by paying people according to the value of their work. A minimum wage, where available and appropriate, sets a floor to those wages. Yet we acknowledge that even paying people fairly, even generously, for their work is not enough to allow them to live here. The best mechanism we have for showing compassion for this service sector is BMR (below market rate) housing, subsidized by both market-rate housing and public funds. No one has come up with a better solution.
Certainly it’s great the County is building housing and funding the I programs with funds from Measure A. However the Offive for Supportive Housing does not seem to be able to follow up on major issues with Housing Firstborigrand
Maybe it’s time to direct some funding to creative and solid substance abuse programs. If the County.wantx to house addicts they need services for at minimum hard reduction
Supportive Housing needs to be staffed with resource staff 7 days a week. Transitioning from homelessness is not a 9 to 5 issue iy is a 24 hour a day issue. In osrt7c7ksr moving from chronic homelessness with the meager services offered by most of the not for profits is beyond challenging UT is a constant series of double binds for those on the front lines
Maybe it’s time to.talk.about solutions rather than vague abstract notions associated with housing first programs.
So this is the richest place in the entire universe is it? Guess what? Most of us are not rich. Not even close. Taxes, service fees, cost of living is so expensive, only the very rich actually thrive here financially and they have tax loopholes.
Developer park fees, taxes, etc can be waived otherwise developers won’t build here. What kind of nonsense is this? No wonder areas badly needing parks and better neighborhood services never get them.
I once met a son from a Swiss vineyard. He told me he was responsible for yearly: driving a bus to Italy to hand select his workers, plus housing, feeding & caring for them during the harvest, then driving them back to Italy after each harvest. Children also were expected there to live under their parent’s roofs for life. Image that!
Mr. Wolfe, Can you clarify if the $17M was just for the land purchase? And if so, how much additional $ will be spent on the 324 new “affordable” units?
The way its currently written sounds like we are getting land and 324 units for $17M. If that is the case, we are finally getting truly affordable units built at $50k/unit, but I seriously doubt it.
We’ve seen reports that its currently costing $800k/unit for new “affordable” housing units. At that rate, it will cost an additional $259M. That’s a significant chunk of Measure A.
Can we get more details please?
I second Balboa’s point–reporting has to connect more unconnected dots for the bigger picture to emerge. What will the county do with the land it has purchased? Will it, like San Francisco, Portland and Seattle, directly tax the wealthy to generate sufficiently robust resources to enable the construction of significant quantities of housing for working people, the working poor, particularly the houseless among them? (see https://sanjosespotlight.com/will-south-bay-keep-expanded-homeless-housing-post-pandemic/#comment-51122) If the county leaders are relying on Measure A (2016), we can’t expect much.
After all, that measure was formulated at a time when officials knew that the county’s affordable housing shortage was upwards of 70,000 housing units (https://www.sccgov.org/sites/scc/Documents/FAQs-from-OCT-4-BOS-Revised-Footnoted.pdf). In response to that reality, our county leadership–with Cindy Chavez in the lead–consciously put forward a proposal to build or preserve upwards of 5,000 units over a 10-year period; in other words, to address one-twelfth of the county’s estimated and accumulated affordable housing deficit. Presumably, the 324 apartments mentioned in Eli Wolfe’s report will be counted against the 5,000 unit goal.
As noted elsewhere, Measure A combines a skinny approach to the most serious socioeconomic issue facing county residents with an obese financing scheme that lines the pockets of the wealthy more than it puts roofs over the heads of those sleeping in their cars or under bridges. It delivers half of its total tax-funded expenditures to wealthy lenders–those who buy the bonds and earn the interest on those bonds–and to the Wall Street banks that earn commissions and fees to underwrite and market those bonds (see https://sanjosespotlight.com/will-south-bay-keep-expanded-homeless-housing-post-pandemic/#comment-51022). Calling Measure A half-assed would be a gross exaggeration.
Despite the unprecedented rise of houselessness in our county in the past decade, county leadership–both elected and permanent–remains debilitated by what appear to be symptoms of an autistic spectrum disorder–i.e. repeated behavior and narrow focus. This presents as a neoliberal austerity fixation: the budget is not something to be used to improve lives but to reproduce the status quo and manage crises. “Fiscal responsibility” amounts to a pledge of allegiance to the wealthy to not burden them with taxes sufficiently large to effectively address houselessness and the economic distress more widely experienced by Valley dwellers. We need leadership that will be independent and courageous enough to lead a campaign to aggressively tax the lopsidedly-distributed wealth and income in this very wealthy county and to use such fiscal resources to repair the tattered social fabric.
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