Op-Ed: Vote ‘Yes’ on A for Affordable Housing

This November, Santa Clara County voters will have the opportunity to make history by voting “yes” on Measure A for Affordable Housing, a $950 million affordable housing bond that will create thousands of new affordable homes for hardworking families and vulnerable communities across Santa Clara County.

We all see on a daily basis that Santa Clara County’s housing crisis is real. The Bay Area is home to some of the wealthiest and most expensive places to live in the world, all while thousands of people are homeless and many thousands more live below the poverty line on the verge of homelessness.

This affects all of us. We’re worried about our friends, family, and community members being able to find an affordable place to live. And we’re deeply concerned about helping those who have already lost housing find a way to get back on their feet and gain access to a safe, healthy, affordable place to call home.

We’ve been looking this problem in the eye for a long time. Now, thanks to a unanimous vote by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, we finally have something to do about it—by voting “yes” on Measure A for affordable housing this November.

Measure A will allows us to support our most vulnerable community members, including our chronically homeless, veterans, seniors, mentally ill, people with disabilities, and low-income and working families.

Measure A works by creating and preserving affordable housing for our most vulnerable communities, such as our seniors and veterans and including Supportive Housing for our chronically homeless residents.

The measure also creates new affordable housing opportunities for our working families, some of whom live on the brink of homelessness and others who may be making enough to get by, but are fighting for opportunities to get ahead.

Measure A will support these working families by creating more affordable housing options near transit and workplace centers, and also by providing first-time homebuyer loans, helping our community members who might otherwise be forced to move far away or suffer long commutes. When people can live near where they work, it reduces traffic congestion and cleans our air. That’s good for all of us!

Measure A is a monumental opportunity for our community to rise to the challenge and provide support to our community members who need our help: Families and children who are living on our streets. Community members who live just on the brink, fearing that every month may be their last in their home. And our working professionals who appear to be making good-paying wages, but still can’t get by in this housing market: our teachers, nurses, bus drivers, grocery clerks, and more.

Downtown Streets Team is joined by a broad coalition of public health, businesses, civic, labor, housing and homeless advocacy, veteran, environmental, and faith leaders from every corner of our County in supporting Measure A. Endorsers include the League of Women Voters, Santa Clara County Senior Care Commission, the Health Trust, Veterans Voices of Santa Clara County, the Registered Nurses Professional Association, the San Jose Downtown Association, and many more.

Measure A is a game changer for our region. We hope you will join us in voting “yes” on Measure A for affordable housing!

For more information, visit www.YesonAffordableHousing.org or follow us on Facebook.

Eileen Richardson is the executive director of Downtown Streets Team. After spending more than a decade in the tech and venture world, including serving as CEO of Napster and Infavio Inc., Eileen started volunteering with the local food closet and decided that ending homelessness was more important to her than stock options. Since 2005, she has leveraged her relationships with civic leaders, local businesses, tech/VC stakeholders, partnered nonprofits and the homeless population to find a solution to homelessness. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside.

33 Comments

  1. Why do Measure A advocates want critical thinking suspended?

    Most of us support any bond or tax measure that makes sense. But Measure A doesn’t. Its advocates consistently fail to make a business case. Economists show that land use policies are the real culprit for our housing cost prices. Until we do something about the underlying causes of affordability, there will be no improvement. Measure A make affordability even worse by driving up standard housing costs.

    Homes in Youngstown, OH are about 2X the median income v. 10X in Santa Clara County. San Jose is even worse. Since the 1970’s San Jose’s income v. home cost has grown from 2.2X to over 11.6X due to land use policies.

    Measure A proponents fail to justify the net benefits. The true beneficiaries are non-profits that rely on government grants like Ms. Richardson’s and construction companies that build it. Afforable housing fails to pay its fair share in property taxes. Taxpayers pay for startup cost and subsidize ongoing costs.

    Then there’s the Measure A “oversight board”. It mirrors VTA’s toothless one. Its failure was cited multiple times in the Grand Jury report for failing to provide adequate oversight of VTA’s profligate spending. There’s no reason to expect Measure A will have effective oversight.

    Downtown Streets President and former Napster CEO Eileen Richardson’s oversaw a music piracy business that was shut down by court order. Her Downtown Streets homeless clients complain they are given gift cards (often donated) and vouchers instead of cash for their labor. Some cities have prohibited this practice, but not San Jose. She skirts living wage requirements by classifying workers as “volunteers”. She earns about 2 times the average San Jose salary. About 75% of Downtown Streets income originates from public grants. Source: latest IRS 990 filing.

    I keep looking for a business case to support Measure A, but it remains elusive.

    • You should only use Youngstown OH as a model for what NOT to do.

      I also have trouble following your arguments about Richardson. Why does she pay clients? How do you hire somebody and then tell them come paycheck time that they are actually a volunteer? Without getting sued?

      Also, your vague complaint about “land use policies” doesn’t make any sense either. It leads one to suspect you want to open up the greenbelt to development, which is a dubious idea and probably not very popular.

      • Thanks for the feedback. I’m not touting Youngstown as a paragon – only as an example of the ratio between average housing price / income. It’s about where San Jose used to be (~2x v. current 11.6). Greenbelt land comprises a very small cost component. There are many factors under the umbrella term “land use policies” that are too long for a comment. These include regional planning such as Plan Bay Area, zoning, height restrictions, permit fees, and many more. I’d urge everyone to thoroughly research claims – including mine.

        Downtown Streets (DNTS) offers services in exchange for labor and a small stipend. AFAIK, they don’t engage in ‘bait & switch’, but disclose the terms and conditions to clients. The Salvation Army and rescue missions such as City Team operate in much the same way. But unlike DNTS, they operate without public funds and don’t pay generous salaries to their management staff. DNTS gets significant funding from the City of San Jose, but CSJ doesn’t require DNTS to meet the living wage requirement that other contractors must meet.

        Ms. Richardson claims Measure A will help the homeless, but fails to substantiate the claim. You’d think there would be abundant evidence where “affordable housing” programs have produced tangible benefits, but they remain elusive. Most public housing projects decayed cesspools of human misery. Rebranding them as “affordable” doesn’t address net benefits or how we will avoid unintended consequences.

        • Taxpayer,
          Your comments make as little sense to me as they do to SanJose1971.
          I’ll accept your ratio comparison of San Jose vs. Youngstown vis a vis income: housing price. Unlike you though, I would attribute the dramatic difference not to the cities’ respective government policies but rather to the basic market forces of supply and demand- the existence of which you seem woefully ignorant.
          And there’s no doubt that Ms. Richardson’s claims are correct- as far as they go. $950 million couldn’t help but help certain select homeless people. But it won’t help the “homeless problem”.
          As far as City Team volunteers. It’s always seemed odd to me that our local politicians are so adamant that employers have to pay a “living wage” but they have no problem with people working for nothing as long as it’s for a “non profit” whose officers pay themselves six figure salaries on the backs of these volunteers.

  2. Our politicians. Our non-profits. Our wealthy music piracy moguls. Always with the gimme gimme gimme.
    It’s a good thing new taxes require a two thirds majority. Too bad it’s not three fourths or even four fifths. Unanimous would be even better.

  3. If the County could guarantee that affordable housing would be built only in the areas where it is most lacking– like Palo Alto, Saratoga, Los Altos, Cupertino, etc.– then I would be all for it. San Jose does not need more housing. It needs businesses and industries that will support its existing population– like the west valley. San Jose has the lowest correlation between housing and workers of any large city in America. That is the source of its funding problem. It needs to stop digging this hole.

    • The major creator of SJ’s budget woes is the woeful jobs/housing imbalance which depresses tax collection. The solution by the Nimrods in City Hall is to build more “affordable” housing, which further tilts the balance the wrong way. Earth to Mayor and Council: if you find yourself trapped in a hole, stop digging.

  4. > The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside.

    What the hell does this mean?

    It’s featured on SJI and labeled as an “Op-Ed”, but it’s NOT the opinion of San Jose Inside?

    Cognitive dissonance?

    Parkinson’s disease?

  5. A few days ago I posted the following comment under another article flogging the idea of spending taxpayer money to turn city bureaucrats into Landlords:

    As an advocate for NO public monies being used for housing, I guess I’ll have to write in my own name. In case the naive readers don’t understand how it works: property owners and developers get the lion’s share of the money as subsidies and other tax breaks, while the “poor” get the crumbs that fall off the table.

    The whole ‘affordable housing’ scam is a gift to special interests — a gift of our tax dollars!

    I’d be glad to change my opinion, if SJI can offer any reason that would be in my best interest. But so far, all I see are the usual ravenous hyenas competing with each other to raise my taxes, and give certain politically correct tribes an unfair advantage.

    Screw ‘em all.

    Governments should stay out of the housing business, and so should the bureaucrats who thought they could run the valley’s public transportation system cheaper than putting it out for bid.

    Any credible cost/benefit analysis would conclude that it’s a lot of money to house relatively few of those in need. It would make far more sense to simply raise a tax, and give the proceeds to those truly in need. Both payors and recipients would benefit by dealing directly with each other. No middleman.

    Proposition A is directly beneficial to certain parties. These things don’t just happen. Measure A is intended to be a freight train, taking voters along with its 24/7 media insistence. With enough repeating of the message, lots of folks begin to head-nod along. And they saturate the media…

    So we’ll see if folks are finally fed up with a bigger and bigger government, but one that never really fixes anything. And remember, these bond measures are tax increases! They are a tax on our future earnings. Why should we do that?

    The city has no business playing landlord. They probably think it’s easy-peasy, but tenants easily organize, and as a voting block they’ll eventually be voting the general public’s money into rent ceilings or whatever.

    If the government wants to increase housing, let developers build. Simple as that. There are plenty of builders, developers, and property owners. Loosen some restrictions and let the market provide. It’s a win-win; the city gets more housing units, and it will collect a tax on the improved property value from then on.

    Measure A is just a special interest bond; it’s good for them, at our expense.

    I’m voting NO on Measure A. No more debts!

  6. A couple of things are becoming clear about Measure A.

    1) The county doesn’t do large scale operations well, e.g., voting without problems, updating hospitals, jails, and policing the areas of the county outside municipalities. Trusting the county with almost a billion dollars (which will cost homeowners and renters eventually not much less than two billion dollars to pay off the bond-holders) is not an experiment most of us want to undertake after we have seen county initiatives crash and burn.

    2) It now appears that San Jose and the county are working to enhance the chance Measure A will pass by allowing the ugliest encampments to grow, particularly those in public view and those that force school children to walk to school and back home through horrendous areas featuring hookers and druggies. And notice that we have no information as to the schedule for cleaning up the worst encampments, those endangering lives and homes in our neighborhoods. It is just kind of assumed that good deeds will be done for homeless people, but what are the neighborhoods and what are the timelines for this?

    Vote NO until you can review the timelines for clearing the dangerous encampments.

    • > It now appears that San Jose and the county are working to enhance the chance Measure A will pass by allowing the ugliest encampments to grow,

      You mean, kind of like a glass company owner paying vandals to break windows, or a volunteer fireman setting fires?

      Nah. That stuff never happens. Politicians are too honest and ethical to do anything like that.

      Name ONE local politician that ISN’T honest and ethical.

  7. The most offensive thing about this article to me is the picture on the top. A single family home with a white picket fence? Oh please – that home would sell for 2 million dollars and would rent for about $5000 a month. They should have put a picture of a 6 story cube with no balconies full of 600 square foot apartments that families of 6 will share.

    I’m sick over the housing “crisis”. I can see the argument from both sides. The part that infuriates me is that San Jose in its general plan and the Mayor and council’s mantra has been 1.3 jobs for every 1 new housing unit. It doesn’t want to build anymore housing here. It doesn’t want to be a bedroom community anymore. So our displacement and homeless population grows when catering to this adjustment. Problem is, now we have to spend money on the homeless problem and now on the affordable housing problem and it the policies of our Mayor and council that have CAUSED it to get this bad.

    What a mess. No good solution at this point. I would almost be ready to join in the NO on A choir but I’m not quite there since the city won’t let developers build they way they know they can. In other words, I see the suffering everyday at the hands of San Jose’s policies (limited housing being built to improve city’s fiscal position) but this suffering ends in no solutions thus housing advocates believe that Measure A will help. I know San Jose doesn’t want to build housing anyway but how can we sort out the solution happening now which is people just have to move away or live in their cars?

    It simply is a mess and I don’t know which way to vote. I wish there were a huge public debate where we could all meet and hash out what the heck is going on in San Jose.

    • Agree – it’s a massive problem. One thing that seems sensible is to reduce barriers for granny units on owner-occupied property. We have a critical shortage of Section 8 housing. More granny units would help and owner-occupied property lowers bad tenant risk. While not a panacea, it can make a dent and help the most needy without serious adverse consequences.

      I imagine there are many incremental ideas, but SJ and SCC Housing have resisted compiling them, identifying acceptable solution criteria, and advocating for the most sensible.

      • I met with a landlord (he is about 90 years old) that owns apartments that he rents only as section 8. He’s an amazing man with decades of experience being a landlord and has done quite well financially and also helped hundreds of people get on their feet. He had a brilliant idea to convert single-family home garages into studio apartments. He remarked to me, “look around, how many garages do you see? Now, imagine each one has one person living in it. We could solve this crisis very quickly if we wanted to.”

        He wasn’t just talking about it. He had a model to convert a garage into a living space for just about $10,000, making it a feasible project for many homeowners. They could recoup costs in rent within a short time, add money to the ongoing needs of maintaining a home, and help solve this crises. (not to mention….clearing out their “stuff” in the garage). Older homeowners could consider moving into this space and renting their home to a family that is desperate to raise children in something other than an apartment, while they live out their lives in the smaller living space that was converted.

        Yes, taxpayer we need to get SJ and SCC housing together and advocated sensible solutions.

  8. Affordable housing is going to help the H1-B visa holders that are flowing into the Bay Area. Our kids can’t qualify for a home, but make to much to qualify for affordable housing.

    • story of my life here in San Jose….being a member of the landless class because I want to stick around and take care of aging parents and stay loyal to them. No way we make enough to buy a home and yet make too much to get on any list (actually we do qualify if we had 2 children but we could only have one so we missed the cut off)

      We all make choices. We chose to stay for our parents and now our daughter moves and moves and moves due to the whims of landlords raising rents or selling the place to flip the rental. It’s a bear of a time to raise a family in San Jose. (But my Dad is worth it…I will stay here if it kills me to take care of him)

      • Jill:

        Have you ever considered moving to Washington, D.C.? I’ve heard that the economy is booming and the unemployment rate is zero, and nobody starves.

      • Kudos Jill. My deepest respect for your loyalty to your parents. I wish we all had children like you. It is tough to try and have some sort of decent life in Silicon Valley for the working middle class. Moving was the best thing I have done for my family. I understand your position, good luck to yoou and your parents.

  9. What is ‘Affordable Housing’? No one has quantified the term ‘affordable’. To a homeless person, $100/mo is too much; that’s why they’re homeless. To someone else, It’s $2000/mo. Sounds like another developer’s grab at county money to create Project housing. It’s a scarey time. It’s kind of like touting “160K jobs have been created”. What kind of jobs? Part time jobs that pay $10/hr are not the kind of employment that creates economic stability that home ownership requires.

  10. A vote for Measure A is a vote to hand over yet more of our tax money to gov’t bureaucrats and their insider pals.

    Do you really want to do that… AGAIN??

    How many times do they have to fool the taxpayers, before the public realizes that this is a scam run by insiders, for insiders.

    And folks, we aren’t the insiders. We’re the sheep they’re always shearing.

    Don’t be a chump! Vote NO on Measure A.

  11. Funny, it does not appear that even one person advocates a yes vote on Measure A. I have long held the stand that when the government asks me to give them more money, it is my duty as a strong patriot and tax payer to simply say…NO.

    Vote NO on Measure A.

  12. TAXPAYER: Like you, but unlike Trump, I accept my civic duty of paying income taxes. As a homeowner, I will be one of those directly tax-impacted by Measure A if it were to pass (the bond is going to be paid for by an increase of property tax of $12.60 per $100,000 of property value. Nevertheless, I am still voting YES, and I hope you will change your mind and do the same. There are a couple your statements that appear either willfully or ignorantly — but either way simply and plainly — incorrect or incomplete.

    First of all, Measure A does allocate $950 million in tax dollars toward affordable housing, but affordable housing developers like MidPen and Charities Housing have historically been able to leverage government funding at a rate of 3:1, so we’re actually looking at close to $2.85 billion toward affordable housing in Santa Clara County. That nonprofit execs are planning to use this funding to pad their personal bank accounts is just not true.

    Second, there are currently more homeless men and women sleeping on the streets, in creeks, and in shelters than there are housing units of any kind in the county. Add to this that the slimiest of slumlords in San Jose can list their apartments for $1600 and will have people clambering to their doorstep to sign a lease. Those who are homeless with no recent rental history and bad or no credit — even if they’re working — have no shot at being approved for these apartments. Measure A will create, reserve, and preserve housing opportunities for homeless and working class families so they have an opportunity to get off YOUR streets. To say that the city and county are promoting the growth of encampments is at best ludicrous and at worse dismissive of the actual problems that exist in our community. Dismissing or ignoring issues does nothing to solve them, but you and others on here seem perfectly willing to do nothing.

    Third, I believe you’re wrong about Downtown Streets Team. You seem to be too smart and too much of a critical thinker to accept and adopt the opinions of a detractor as your own without doing any research for yourself. The beautification projects in which the streetsteam members engage are not meant to be labor intensive and they are not under pressure to meet any metrics related to their work. The projects are meant as Meaningful Daily Activities in which homeless men and women engage as they’re rebuilding their lives out of homelessness. Through these activities they are able to develop positive working habits, build self-confidence, help change the perception of homelessness, and become active members of their communities. The gift cards you’re talking about are not meant to be a living wage but a dignified means of helping the volunteers meet their basic needs while at the same time reducing their need to panhandle. It’s easy to dismiss as a scam if you haven’t actually looked into it (which you obviously haven’t), but the intensive case management and employment counseling — combined with the meaningful daily activities — help the homeless build a bridge out of homelessness and the streetsteam’s successes speak for themselves.

    Lastly, a successful capitalist society relies on a strong working and middle class to provide the goods and services that we both need and want. While manufacturing jobs are almost non-existent in the bay area, there is an army of service workers on whom we rely every day at the coffee shops, gas stations, restaurants, hotels, and grocery stores that we frequent. Many if not most of the people you interact with when you’re taking advantage of these services live at or below the poverty line, even if they’re working full time. Do you know what the pre-tax income for a minimum wage worker is in San Jose? About $1750. That means in order to rent a market rate one bedroom apartment at San Jose’s median rent (about $1500), they would have to dedicate over 85% of their monthly income to rent. It gets even worse and less possible as you move up the peninsula, but the residents of towns like Mountain View, Los Altos, Los Gatos, and Palo Alto still want and depend on the services that these workers provide. Unless we are going to ask business owners to pay their employees more and sooner (not $15 by 2019, which is the current plan in most communities), we need initiatives like Measure A to bridge the income gap and preserve the working and middle classes.

    • > As a homeowner, I will be one of those directly tax-impacted by Measure A if it were to pass (the bond is going to be paid for by an increase of property tax of $12.60 per $100,000 of property value. Nevertheless, I am still voting YES, and I hope you will change your mind and do the same.

      Dear Homeowner.

      I will be voting that you house MORE homeless in YOUR house and that you leave the rest of us alone.

      One of the ugly consequences of Measure A is that it is UNSUSTAINABLE.

      The environmentalists have harangued us for years on the importance of “sustainability”. They are often wrong on the facts and their understanding of science, but I totally agree with them on the importance of sustainability.

      Measure A is simply an UNSUSTAINABLE solution.

      It relies on taxpayer subsidies to lure economically constrained people to move into housing they CANNOT support in the economic real world. When the subsidy goes away, their housing goes away. POOF!

      People in subsidized housing BY DEFINITION (and by government design) CANNOT afford to live in market rate housing. Therefore, they are TRAPPED in their affordable unit the end of time, or until it deteriorates and collapses from lack of maintenance.

      News bulletin for the big hearts: Housing requires maintenance. Lots of maintenance.

      A high concentration of low income tenants, living in high density housing that is poorly maintained, and where the residents have NO Prospect to moving to a market rate is the definition of a slum.

      Measure A is really a slum creation initiative.

      If the big hearts have ANY compassion for the poor, they will NOT lure them into economically unsustainable situations.

      This was the disaster of Bill Clintons “Community Reinvestment Act” which manipulated the mortgage market to saddle people with mortgages they could not afford. MANY, MANY people lost their homes and lost their saving because of the stupid, narcissistic big hearts ignoring the marketplace and just trying to “help” people.

      YOUR HELP WAS A DISASTER AND A CRIME AND RUINED PEOPLES LIVES!

      Just go make soup at a soup kitchen. Let the poor learn the messages of the market place and figure out that they need to live in a truly affordable, sustainable location, and not the seventh most expensive housing market in the country.

      HELL NO ON MEASURE A

      • Take a deep breath, sir/ma’am. The market currently dictates a $10.30 per hour minimum wage in San Jose. The people working for that amount of money are the people you likely depend on for many of the services you’ve grown accustomed to living in a modern civilized society. As an example of how the minimum wage has not increased along with the costs of living we need look no further than the Big Mac. In 1968, a Big Mac would have cost you $0.49 and the minimum wage at the time was $1.65 per hour. For an hour’s work, a minimum wage worker could purchase about 3 1/3 big macs. Today, a Big Mac is going to cost you about $4.79 at the state minimum wage that will only allow the same minimum wage worker who earns $10.30 in San Jose 2 1/6 Big Macs per hour of work. It follows that if the minimum wage had increased equitably with the costs of living over time, the minimum wage should be around $15.95 per hour. If workers were earning at the same level as the costs of living we would be in a very different place right now in terms of our housing crisis. However, your market is not as free as you would like to believe.To continue with our example above, fast food companies on the one hand lobby for lower and slower-growing wages while on the other manipulate costs of goods to increase their profits. The fast food industry is not alone of course, but our thoughts naturally (or maybe it’s unnaturally) move toward a fast food employee when we think of minimum wage workers.

        When you say “let the poor learn the messages of the market … and figure out that they need to live in a truly affordable, sustainable situation” I assume you mean that you would expect the person who makes your morning latte at Starbucks to drive from the central valley for the honor of bestowing upon you your overpriced coffee drink because she can’t afford to live here? Whom do you expect to provide those services that we rely and depend on every day?
        Even our police officers cannot afford to live here. I thought it was highly ironic that after San Jose declared a state of emergency over the understaffed police department that the police officers themselves had to assemble a makeshift encampment in the parking lot of the police station in order to meet the demands of the city. I’m not mocking them, but it is a relevant example of the dire state of our housing market in Santa Clara County.

        Our teachers, too, are expected to travel for the honor of teaching our children. Yet another relevant example is the initiative in Cupertino to build high density housing for that city’s educators, who, by the way, have created one of the best districts in the nation for public schools.The Cupertino residents — the parents of the students — however, voted that initiative down.

        If we want the highest level of goods and services, which we should have in a place like the Silicon Valley, we cannot forget the service providers on whom we depend every day.

        You talk a lot about sustainable solutions, but is doing nothing, as you suggest, sustainable? I don’t believe that it is.

        • T Too,
          ” [teachers] have created one of the best districts in the nation for public schools.The Cupertino residents — the parents of the students — however, voted that initiative down.” As well they should to avoid litigation about gift of public funds. The idea has been floated elsewhere, but am unaware of any that have actually been built in CA. San Jose officials proposed something like that too, but was withdrawn. What *has* worked (at least in some locales) has been teacher housing built by teacher unions, though am unclear if legal in CA. I believe it also circumvents having subsidized housing treated as a taxable benefit which could be a consequence if built by municipalities.

          Note that expenses per pupil does not correlate with academic performance. If so, Detroit’s students would be outstanding. Cupertino’s STAR rating is much higher than the state average in all categories. All the evidence points to parents – not teacher salaries as the primary reason.

          “the police officers themselves had to assemble a makeshift encampment in the parking lot of the police station in order to meet the demands of the city” Yes – I know of adequately compensated tech employees that choose to live in RVs near their jobs rather than make a long commute or relocate families. SJ says our officers are compensated at the 50th percentile level v. benchmarked departments. But their take-home pay is substantially less in large part because benefits deductions and CalPers contributions. Junior officers are particularly hard hit. Elected officials blame the POA and vice versa for SJ’s police staffing woes. There are elements of truth to both claims.

          “It follows that if the minimum wage had increased equitably with the costs of living over time, the minimum wage should be around $15.95 per hour.” Nope. $1.65 in 1968 is worth $11.42 today – not $15.95 per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Agree that minimum wage has not kept pace with inflation, but not clear that it should unless there is a corresponding increase in productivity.

          Bear in mind that unskilled and semi-skilled labor are being replaced by automation and different business models. Self-service eliminated gas station attendants. We see the same trend in checkout lines at every big box store as labor costs have become an increasing percentage of operating costs. Companies like Amazon, Uber and Netflix have impacted this labor segment too. As Al Gore pointed out over 20 years ago, the era of lifetime employment at one company has passed. We need to constantly upgrade our skills to remain employable. Should we provide permanent subsidies to those that don’t?

          • Yes, automation, self service, clean fuel, the list goes on of industries in which progressive technologies disrupt and ultimately replace the status quo. I consider myself a progressive and am unsure what the solutions are for those who have been/will be displaced by technological innovations that eliminate jobs. On the one hand we have to move forward as a technological society, while on the other we have to look out for the citizens of this country. Retraining is fine for the younger generations, but I fear that those in the middle or twilights of their careers will be the sacrificial lambs of progress. I don’t think that permanent subsidies are the answer, but a real solution is required and I wish I had it. The alternative is to dismiss those negatively affected by the progressive shift as collateral damage, but I don’t believe that is an appropriate response either. I’m hoping that people smarter than me have something up their sleeves, or those displaced workers will be the next wave of impoverished/homeless Americans.

            I believe the Bureau of Labor aggregates stats from around the nation, not just Santa Clara County. $11.42 might be adequate for housing in some rural areas but I think you’ll agree not here. I would like to see a local analysis of the minimum wage based on actual, objective expenses such as Big Macs and rents, but I don’t have time to look right now (I’m sure there are some studies out there). From personal experience, a studio apartment that I rented in 2006 used to rent for $650 a month. The same apartment now rents for $1450. If rents have gone up over 125% in 10 years but the minimum wage has only gone up about 40 percent in that same time, something will have to give. (I am not saying that this one example is representative of the entire market (again, no time to look at the actual stats right now), but it is a real world example.

        • “it is more sustainable and cost-effective to put someone in a home than it is to leave them on the streets”

          It may be, but the “Home Not Found” report fails to provide justification for that claim. Am quite familiar with the “Home Not Found” report and its numerous statistical inference flaws. I trust you know that the authors, Economic Roundtable, is a social justice, research-for-hire organization. They were cherry-picked by Destination Home not on the basis of independent research, but on weaving the desired narrative.

          That doesn’t invalidate their findings, but does raise doubts. Not much different from the “Four Of Five Physicians Prefer Camels” ad claim. One can gin up a study to support the claim, but it hardly passes scientific scrutiny.

          Also noteworthy is the absence of independent verification. AFAIK, no one has confirmed their claims. I’m unable to find any of their research that passes academic scrutiny: no peer review or publication in journals. They have a Measure A endorsement on their website. Again, raising doubts about objective, unbiased research.

        • > In 1968, a Big Mac would have cost you $0.49 and the minimum wage at the time was $1.65 per hour. For an hour’s work, a minimum wage worker could purchase about 3 1/3 big macs. Today, a Big Mac is going to cost you about $4.79 at the state minimum wage that will only allow the same minimum wage worker who earns $10.30 in San Jose 2 1/6 Big Macs per hour of work.

          And your point is what?

          Are you suggesting that Santa Clara County needs another billion dollar bond measure and property tax increase so people can have “affordable Big Macs”?

          And “affordable pizzas”? Affordable “groceries”? Affordable “cable TV service”? Affordable “legalized marijuana”? What are you going to pay for for yourself?

    • I’m conflicted about Measure A and agree with many of your points. The latest AFS (Census Bureau) figures show about 25% of SJ residents below the poverty level. An astounding and disturbing figure though far from Detroit and some other US cities. But the central question for me is: “What difference will Measure A make, to what degree is it cost-effective, how do we know?”

      The homeless? No data I’ve seen indicates Measure A will make a difference. Santa Clara County has had successive 5 and 10 year plans to end homeless, but by all appearances chronic homelessness has increased. There was a slight dip in the total number in the last bi-annual Santa Clara County count, but no linkage to what was responsible for the change. It could be because we’re doing something right or normal statistical variation. We don’t know. The homeless population is diverse and ranges from working poor living in vehicles to those pushing shopping carts. We’re doling out millions, and I’ve yet to see any longitudinal studies about the impact. Please let me know if there are for the County or its cities. Put another way, I don’t believe we know what works and what doesn’t – aka best practices protocols.

      Several of the homeless I’ve spoken to say they remain on the dole because they fear loss of benefits. Far better to receive housing, health care, and living expenses by remaining unemployed. If their reported income rises, then they are at risk of loosing benefits. Given the high housing cost and difficulty finding affordable housing, they make smart economic choices to remain on welfare rather than work at a low wage job.

      You attribute a number of claims to me that aren’t accurate, nor made in my original post. “It’s easy to dismiss as a scam if you haven’t actually looked into it (which you obviously haven’t)” – I didn’t claim that DNTS is a scam and have spoken with a number of their clients. They were the ones distressed by gift cards v. payment. And also complained that the gift card payment is below San Jose’s Living Wage threshold. Per IRS filings, DNTS gets about 75% of budget by public funds.

      In contrast, the Salvation Army receives none, their highest paid SJ employee earns about 20% of Ms. Richardson’s salary, and they publish much more complete outcome and followup studies than DNTS. Catholic Charities is another organization that impresses me. Poor farms (Elmwood began as one) delivered similar benefits as DNTS and were self-sufficient.

      Agree with your comment about the declining middle class. Generation Y is our first where their prospects are worse than their parents. But skeptical that incentivizing them to remain in low wage jobs is good social and economic policy.

      So what seems better?
      1. Offer incentives to improve for those receiving public assistance. Learn marketable skills, clean up freeways, get a better paying job, etc.
      2. Remove disincentives such as getting kicked out of subsidized housing if income rises beyond a certain level.
      3. Focus on prevention. Our society seems to pay scant attention to those most likely to become homeless. In general, early intervention saves 10 to 100 times over treatment costs.
      4. Require public fund recipient agencies accountability. DNTS (and others) don’t report how they measure success, how much each successful client cost, and how long it took. By contrast, hospitals are required to report this type of information for conditions they treat.
      5. Review public policies. New construction costs about $150 / sq foot in fees. A small 1,000 sq ft unit costs about $150,000 plus building and land costs. Why is this good public policy to make housing unaffordable? Housing officials have refused to consider lower cost alternatives such as mobile homes for temporary low income housing.

      Given numerous expensive, failed “big bang” government programs such as the war on poverty, I’d prefer to see an incremental program that demonstrates tangible success before writing billion dollar checks.

      • I’d like to point you to a 2015 study done by Destination:Home about the costs of homelessness in Silicon Valley: http://destinationhomescc.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/FactSheetDestinationHome.pdf

        It states that the county and the service providers in it have spent about $520 million annually over the previous six years to address the issues surrounding homelessness, and, as you’ve stated, there is little to show for it.

        It also states that the 2800 “persistently homeless” individuals on our streets cost tax payers approximately $83,000 annually. That alone is $232 million each and every year. The primary costs are medical, which account for 54%. Longitudinal studies have shown that people living inside, particularly during the winter, survive longer than those sleeping outside. Not many people die of exposure to the elements in Santa Clara County, but the dozens that do every year are homeless. The point being, it is more sustainable and cost-effective to put someone in a home than it is to leave them on the streets.

        The point you make about entitlements is, perhaps, the thing I struggle most with. How do we motivate able people on SSI/SSDI, general assistance, section 8 etc to move beyond those subsidies instead of settling for a substandard existence? One solution is reforming the Section 8 program as San Mateo County has to, in essence, eliminate the default lifetime voucher and instead conduct checkins and re-certifications with beneficiaries. I would support this in Santa Clara County where the well-intentioned Section 8 program has been crippled by a lack of regulation and oversight.

        So why not take the same approach with affordable housing? If we combine a semi-permanent housing subsidy with employment counseling for those able to work, then they will at least have a grace period to get back on their feet while having to worry less about their housing. If they can use that grace period to find better employment, develop a savings, etc, they will be better able to tackle the non-subsidized world when they term out. This, I think, is better that resolving to have them continue to die slowly on the street.

        I do not believe that any of the money from the Measure A bond will be going to providers other than the affordable housing developers like EAN, Charities Housing and MidPen, so my guess is that Mrs. Richardson’s op-ed is not a cry for more money for her organization but rather an acknowledgement that housing is the obvious and most effective solution to homelessness.

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