Santa Clara County’s $950 million housing bond approved by voters as Measure A in 2016 was designed to address the region’s growing population of unsheltered residents. Ninety percent of the funding would go to projects to house the homeless and those scraping by on less than 30 percent of the region’s median income of $23,450 per individual or $33,500 for a four-person household.
But the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will consider setting aside 5 percent of the bond revenue ($41 million) for disabled people who are already housed, a proposal that’s prompted backlash from advocates for the homeless and a group of local nonprofits.
“We do not support a set-aside of Measure A funds for any one special population over another, as this would create a problematic ripple effect for other special populations that also have great housing needs within our system of care,” Silicon Valley Council of Nonprofits CEO Patricia Gardner and Silicon Valley Independent Living Director Sheri Burns wrote in a letter to the board.
Supervisor Joe Simitian pitched the idea for a 5 percent set-aside to help the growing population of developmentally disabled adults.
“Most adults with developmental disabilities who need affordable housing are at eventual risk of homelessness, but do not qualify as at imminent risk because they are living at home with aging parents and have not received a notice that they will lose their housing within 14 days,” Simitian explained in his memo to the board.
Though people with disabilities already qualify for Measure A housing, developments that reserve units specifically for the demographic cannot qualify for the bond money unless it targets those who are chronically homeless, at imminent risk of homelessness or leaving an institution. Yet some developers have reservations about combining those demographics, even though they often overlap.
The issue came up this past spring in discussions about a $40 million, 71-unit affordable housing project in Mountain View. The project by Palo Alto Housing, which reserved 17 units for the developmentally disabled, would only qualify for Measure A financing if it set aside at least half of the overall units to house the homeless. Palo Alto Housing Development Manager Danny Ross told the Mountain View Voice that he had reservations about placing disabled folks alongside formerly homeless people because the populations have different needs.
Gardner and Burns, however, worry that earmarking Measure A money as Simitian proposes would undermine the spirit of the bond measure, which was intended for people without a roof over their head—many of whom have developmental disabilities.
“The need for low income housing being addressed through Measure A far exceeds our ability to address the full spectrum of permanent housing needs,” they acknowledged in their letter to supervisors. “We hear everyday about the lack of housing for victims of domestic violence, families living in their cars, adults with all types of disabilities, frail seniors, those with fragile health issues, those with mentally illness, foster youth, LGBTQ residents and more. Our county has a system for evaluating and triaging housing needs for our most vulnerable. It may not be a perfect system, but most of our nonprofit network of agencies has agreed to work within this system because the data, rating and prioritization of clients is working.”
Jennifer Loving, head of Destination: Home, echoed those concerns and highlighted the success of Measure A in meeting the needs of developmentally disabled people in addition to other segments of the homeless population. Since voters approved the bond measure two years ago, the county has allocated $111 million to 10 projects in six cities, accounting for a combined 817 new units of housing. The developments in Cupertino, Mountain View, Santa Clara, San Jose, Morgan Hill and Gilroy will house youth, seniors, families and veterans, domestic violence survivors and the developmentally disabled.
“Solutions to meet the housing needs of the target communities represented in the bond exist right now; through communication and collaboration we can forge a path forward together without eroding the intent of Measure A,” Loving wrote in a letter to the county. “We ask that our developers, cities and the county work together to fulfill the intent of Measure A without dividing it up and pitting one vulnerable population against another.”
- The county is poised to hire a contractor to raze the Old City Hall Annex, despite a push from a prominent developer, Jim Salata, and grassroots advocates to convert the building into housing for the homeless. Clauss Construction offered the lowest bid at close to $1.4 million.
- Plans to create an independent entity to oversee the county’s jails and law enforcement are moving forward. Supervisors will convene a committee comprising community members and stakeholders to help find a qualified contractor to assume the responsibility of running an Office of Correction and Law Enforcement Monitoring. The oversight model was proposed in response to systemic problems at the county’s jails, which came under widespread scrutiny after the 2015 beating death of mentally ill inmate Michael Tyree by three correctional deputies.
WHAT: Board of Supervisors meets
WHEN: 9am Tuesday
WHERE: County Government Center, 70 W. Hedding St., San Jose
INFO: Clerk of the Board, 408.299.5001