San Jose’s current draft Housing Element report for 2014-2023 emphasizes the development of urban villages in select neighborhoods. The city’s commitment to urbanizing our communities should be applauded, but the means to house San Jose’s most vulnerable populations must not be overlooked.
The city has built into the housing work-plan a statement to explore opportunities to create homeless apartments with supportive services—a statement that needs to be followed with actions.
According to the city’s 2013 Homeless Census and Survey, there were more than 12,000 people in San Jose who identified as homeless. More than one-fourth of those homeless are youth under the age of 25.
With federal and state funding for low-income housing becoming scarcer every day, it is up to local cities to think outside the box and consider housing proposals of all shapes and sizes. Many creative solutions have been proposed in the draft element. Ideas such as increasing the supply of secondary units, facilitating the development of Single Room Occupancy (SRO) buildings, implementing a master-lease program to provide interim housing for the homeless in under-occupied hotels, and even the development of micro units. SROs and micro-units will not only help the homeless population gain housing but will also assist low-income young adults move to independent living in a high housing cost area.
Silicon Valley is home to several successful SRO developments (San Antonio Place in Mountain View and San Jose’s Pensione Esperanza and El Paseo Studios to name a few), however, not nearly enough of them for a region as populated as Santa Clara County.
Last year Bill Wilson Center had 206 youth who were formerly homeless or emancipated from foster care in its transitional housing programs. When these young people are ready to move out on their own and become self-sufficient, they need an affordable place to move to. There needs to be rental options available that are affordable for individuals and families trying to support themselves in entry-level jobs.
During the past few years, non-profit developers have been working tirelessly to locate and acquire property available for low-income housing. Several non-profit organizations have stepped forward to manage these properties and provide needed services on site.
As the City of San Jose prepares to submit its Housing Element to the State of California, the inclusion of affordable living space for individuals and families working to break the cycle of homelessness is vital.
San Jose is planning to prioritize the Housing Element’s work-plan for the next seven years and it’s important to provide hope for those in our community who work in our lower wage jobs.