(BCN) — A Milpitas school district’s plan to help its employees live where they work is coming to fruition.

The Milpitas City Council unanimously approved plans Tuesday to demolish a vacant, one-story industrial building on 6.69 acres of land at 1355 California Circle and replace it with 206 townhomes and apartments. All 75 apartments would be affordable, with the majority designated for Milpitas Unified School District employees. The project is being designed and developed by Pulte Group.

Councilmembers commended the project for increasing the city’s affordable housing stock–Milpitas needs to add more than 6,700 homes by 2031 to meet state requirements.

“This project has been way overdue, it’s been a long time coming,” Mayor Carmen Montano said at the meeting. “I know Pulte, you build some very high-quality homes, and that’s what we want in Milpitas.”

As part of the project’s approval, the council removed certain requirements in the city’s General Plan. The plan called for 100 percent affordable housing and the creation of a specific zoning plan for the California Circle neighborhood. Interim Planning Director Jay Lee told councilmembers the 100% affordable housing requirement would limit future development.

Councilmember Hon Lien, who served six years as a school board trustee, said having this housing will lift a heavy burden off district employees. Teachers have been leaving the Bay Area because of the region’s rising cost of living.

“I would like to retain good teachers in our good district,” Lien told San Jose Spotlight. “Children are the future of our world, (and) we need teachers to teach.”

Milpitas Unified School District Board President Chris Norwood said building housing is vital to keeping teachers in the region.

“Regional housing developers have a unique opportunity to invest time, talent and treasure in the public education systems of the communities that have supported them,” Norwood told San Jose Spotlight.

The school district has an attrition rate between 10 percent to 15 percent for its more than 1,000 employees. Norwood said the district’s goal is to slash that in half, and providing resources like housing would help retain and better support incoming employees.

Jim Sullivan, a Pulte representative, presented the project at the meeting. He said it should break ground early next year.

Councilmembers discussed when the apartments could be occupied over the course of development. The city’s initial recommendation was to hold a portion back from receiving certificates of occupancy until the affordable housing portion was completed.

Sullivan said this would cause the developer immense financial strain, because completion of the entire project will take more than two years. Lee said holding back a portion of the homes would incentivize the builder to complete the affordable housing. But councilmembers disagreed and sided with Pulte to allow market rate housing to be occupied before affordable housing construction begins.

Pulte Group is a nationwide home builder with projects throughout California, and councilmembers pointed out the developer’s reputation as reassurance that the affordable housing portion will be completed.

“It seems like you’re a force that’s here to stay, here to invest in Milpitas. We’re very grateful for that investment,” Councilmember Anthony Phan said. “Hopefully your experience has been positive with us (and) you’ll continue to invest tremendously in our community.”

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