San Jose Mayor and Council Members Promise More ‘Rapid-Build’ Emergency Housing

San José Mayor Sam Liccardo and six city council members announced plans Wednesday to accelerate the city’s “rapid-build” apartments to provide more temporary shelters for people without shelter.

At the same time, the mayor, joined by councilmembers Sergio Jimenez, Raul Peralez, David Cohen, Dev Davis, Pam Foley, and Matt Mahan promised to do a better job cleaning up trash in city neighborhoods and to provide jobs for people without homes.

The city leaders dubbed the twin initiatives a “Compassionate and Clean San José.”

The plan would triple the number of emergency housing units in the city and follows the announcement of the Biden Administration’s “House America” initiative, which provides some of the funding. Liccardo said he plans to use federal funds to leverage private funds for the project.

“We simply dont have the time and resources to wait until the permanent housing can be built,” Liccardo told at press conference at the Rue Ferrari emergency housing apartments on Sept. 22. “We have to move faster to get people off the street.”

“We are committed to building homes for at least 1,500 unhouse residents and getting 2300 new and transition units into the pipeline,” he said. The goal, the mayor said, it to provide “homes for those who are for those who are unhoused today.”

The “rapid-build” units will cost approximately $110,000 each, compared to the more than $800,000-per-unit cost of permanent housing in Silicon Valley, he said.

The plan would bring the City’s total rapid-build apartment units—also known as emergency housing—to 1,000 under construction or completed by the end of 2022 and pursue Homekey funding for an additional 300 hotel/motel units, which would decrease San José’s unsheltered population by more than 20%, according to City Hall.

The proposals also would quadruple the current number of positions for San José Bridge — which employs unhoused San José residents in job training programs as they work on beautifying the City—from 50 to 200.

The proposals call for an expansion of efforts to address illegal dumping, including the introduction of monetary rewards for those who cite illegal dumping activities, and the deployment of cameras at illegal dumping hotspots

On Monday, Liccardo joined U.S. HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge in launching the Biden Administration’s “House America” initiative, to achieve bold goals by December 2022 to house our unhoused neighbors. The mayor announced that San José’s “House America'' goal is to rehouse 1,500 people and move forward the creation of 2,300 new transitional and permanent housing units -- through this proposal and developments brought online by Measure A-- by December 2022.

Since January of 2020, the city said its efforts, in conjunction with the County of Santa Clara, Housing Authority, Destination:Home, and partner non-profits, have rehoused nearly 4,900 homeless residents.

“We have an opportunity to deploy an unprecedented level of resources to move the needle in addressing two of our city’s most pressing challenges: providing housing solutions for unhoused residents, and blight on our streets,” Liccardo said in a statement. “We’ve proven that housing can be constructed in months rather than years, and at a fraction of the cost. We also demonstrated the effectiveness of SJ Bridge, in providing employment for unhoused residents while addressing blight. In the year ahead, we must double down on what’s working, and accelerate these efforts.”

In 2019, the Point in Time (PIT) census counted 6,097 unhoused residents in San Jose, of which 5,117 were unsheltered. In response to the pandemic, the city used prefabricated, modular construction to quickly build three emergency interim housing communities for 317 formerly unhoused individuals, couples, and families. The first proposal from the mayor and councilmembers Jimenez, Peralez, Foley and Mahan (D10), will triple emergency housing capacity to a total of 1,000 by adding 683 rapid-build apartments and pursue State Homekey funding to acquire 300 units of hotels/motels.

This will increase countywide shelter capacity from 28% to 54.4%, and reduce the unsheltered population by more than 20% in San José, according to the city.

The modular units would be spread across six sites in the six council districts that do not currently host a transitional housing site, and would prioritize housing unsheltered residents in the immediate surrounding neighborhoods to ensure the entire community directly benefits from hosting an emergency housing site. They also propose new incentives for private landowners with large parking lots who might be willing to host a transitional housing community given the limited availability of land.

In addition to emergency housing construction, the plan includes recommendations to add a temporary safe parking site for unhoused residents living out of RVs in District 2, and an aggressive approach to encourage the development of a sobering center where treatment options can be identified for individuals arrested for criminal offenses while actively under the influence of a drug.


Three decades of journalism experience, as a writer and editor with Gannett, Knight-Ridder and Lee newspapers, as a business journal editor and publisher and as a weekly newspaper editor in Scotts Valley and Gilroy; with the Weeklys group since 2017. Recipient of several first-place writing and editing awards, California News Publishers Association.


  1. Yes, promotion of homelessness as something that pays certain parties.

    It’s a real case, not a notorious selective bogus case, of induced demand.

  2. Remove the first comma from the caption to the photo above and consider the phrase (without the following comma and spelling of “family” corrected):

    “Multi-family housing like this San Jose development”

    Within twenty years, much mid-rise development like that likely will be suitable for dirty-job housing.

  3. With all the homelessness and the generally unkempt environment in San Jose we’ll never see conferences here again. Why don’t we just convert all the convention centers in San Jose into homeless encampments. Would be a win-win to have indoor tent cities instead of outdoor tent cities. Plus this would reduce travel within and to the city so it’s the green thing to do.

  4. “You cannot Build your way out of Homelessness,” …..LA Sheriff Alex Villanueva said.

    “It was the LA Homeless Authority themselves that said
    For Every 100 (vagrants) that we house,
    they are replaced by 120 (more vagrants) on the street –
    that math seems to elude these people … our elected officials.”

  5. Why are politicians creating housing for vagrants who don’t wok when people who do work have to commute 1-2 hours (one way) to get to work and parents of SJSU students are paying upwards of $1,500-$2,000 a month for their kid to share a tiny room in a cramped apartment with 4-5 other students?

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