City of San Jose behind on affordable housing

Bay Area

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — It’s no secret that the Bay Area as a whole has long dealt with a housing crisis, and now city leaders are tasked to address this issue amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

With more than one million residents, the city of San Jose is among one of the most diverse cities in the Bay Area, but in the last several years the city has also dealt with a rise in homelessness, with a 42% increase over the last three years. 

Last week, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo welcomed Governor Gavin Newsom to celebrate the completion of the Bernal Monterey Emergency Interim Housing Community — consisting of 78 individual bedrooms within 20 buildings to offer unsheltered residents housing amid the pandemic. 

The interim housing is the first of three communities the city has planned to provide more than 300 unhoused residents transitional homes. 

“It’s no secret that it has been incredibly challenging to get more affordable housing built, it’s very expensive to build housing here, typically an apartment building will require about $700,000 per investment per apartment just to get it constructed,” said Liccardo. 

“And when you have 10,000 homeless individuals as we do in the county of Santa Clara, that is now a $7 billion challenge to try and be able to house folks just by building the housing.” 

Findings from the city’s 2019 Point-In-Time Homeless Count identified a total of 6,097 individuals who are experiencing homeless in the city with 83% of those individuals unsheltered. 

Courtesy: City of San Jose

Back in 2017 — in an effort to address the housing crisis – Liccardo introduced a 15-point housing plan to create more affordable housing which aims to complete, have under construction or have approved 25,000 homes including at least 10,000 affordable units by 2022. 

Liccardo tells KRON4 News the challenge has been being able to find new ways to build housing that is more cost-efficient.

“The housing department says we have now 14,959 units that are either approved, under construction or completed, of those not nearly enough but a little less than 3,000 are affordable,” said Liccardo. 

“We clearly have a lot more work to do particularly on the affordable side and so that’s why I led for Measure E in March which will provide $30 million this year for affordable housing and about a little more than $1.5 billion over the next decade to get more affordable housing built.”

For years — the San Jose community has been critical of the big tech of Silicon Valley for spiking up the cost of living throughout the region, forcing many families out of their hometown. 

As Google is set to move into downtown San Jose — the tech giant recently released an 80-acre “Downtown West” campus plan transforming downtown with 7.3 million square feet of office space, up to 5,900 housing units and 3.5 miles of new and improved bicycle facilities. 

In addition — Google promised 25% of the housing to be affordable for low-income residents. 

SV Rising is one group locally pushing for big tech to provide affordable housing — Maria Noel Fernandez, campaign director of SV Rising says the organization also wants big tech to provide good jobs for San Jose residents.

“What the coalition and the community continue to really push and prioritize is more funding for housing and a real commitment, not just for affordable housing in that pocket of San Jose but in east San Jose and other parts of our communities because we know the impact of large development isn’t just in one place,” said Fernandez. 

“We need to be excited about good jobs and we need to find what it means to find a good job, when there’s a tech development it also means that there’s cafeteria workers, shuttle bus drivers, landscapers, security officers and janitors … how do we make sure those folks have good family-supporting jobs on these campuses.”

In recent months allegations surfaced claiming the city has given away $67 million worth in subsidies and fee reductions to Google, other big tech companies, and housing developers — Mayor Liccardo has since responded to those allegations telling KRON4 News that under his tenure no single taxpayer dollar was used for such deductions.

“As long as I’ve been mayor, we have not given any subsidies to any tech companies .. and any of the fee reductions that have occurred in the city, we only reduce the fees in those cases where the housing cannot be built without a fee reduction,” said Liccardo. 

“Google has been anything but a subsidy, in fact, they committed through a memorandum of understanding … to not only pay all the fees and taxes, but they paid well above the market rate for the land.”

“And they’re doing this simply for the privilege of being able to expand here and build jobs here and on top of that they agreed to pay a commercial linkage fee that we hadn’t even approved yet and 100 percent of that money is going to be used for affordable housing,” he added.

Despite the city’s ongoing efforts to address the housing crisis in San Jose — living expenses continue to be high with the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment currently at $2,100, still a 14% decrease compared to last year. 

If you know someone who is struggling to find housing — click here for a map of affordable housing units throughout San Jose.

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