Santa Clara County voters will decide the fate of a $950 million affordable housing bond this November.
The Board of Supervisors last week voted to place the initiative on the fall ballot. If approved, the measure would raise property taxes countywide to fund housing for poor and homeless residents. The tax would amount to $12.66 per $100,000 in assessed property value.
“Homelessness is at a crisis stage in our community,” Board President Dave Cortese said.
Cortese noted that the county needs stable funding to prevent low-income families from becoming homeless as rents go up and buying a home becomes virtually impossible. The plan is to provide down payments or loans for families who are trying to relocate closer to their workplace.
“For the first time in recent memory, voters see housing as the most important problem facing Santa Clara County,” Supervisor Cindy Chavez said. “The need for housing, the voters’ concern and an upcoming high turnout election have converged—this is the housing moment.”
In 2015, according to a regional point-in-time census, 6,556 homeless lived in the county—most of them unsheltered on the streets or in the creeks. That’s the fourth-largest homeless population in the nation.
Meanwhile, demand for housing far outpaces the supply, even when accounting for future development. According to the California Housing Partnership, the South Bay needs 67,576 more homes to fulfill the needs of low-income families. Regional projections show that county needs another $220 million in housing through 2022 to meet the needs of struggling families.
“In all the years that I’ve been in the private sector, I’ve never seen a time like this when the need for housing has risen to the top,” Cortese told San Jose Inside. “We set three polls in January and in all of those polls housing is identified as the number one priority ... higher than even public safety and traffic relief.”
One of those polls conducted this spring by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group found that 65 percent of likely voters would support a bond to build, buy and preserve homes for veterans, seniors, the disabled and homeless.
That survey, however, asked people if they would support a slightly lesser amount: $750 million. It also came on the heels of a report that calculated the price of homelessness down to a specific dollar amount. According to the countywide study, homelessness costs taxpayers $520 million a year for a range of services that include emergency room visits, arrests and jail stays.