San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo Unveils Ambitious Plan to Build 25,000 New Homes by 2022

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo on Monday unveiled an ambitious plan to build 25,000 new homes—with 40 percent of them below-market-rate—over the next five years. The 15-point proposal would far outpace the rate of new housing construction for any half-decade in the city’s history, officials said.

“The Bay Area housing crisis affects residents across the income spectrum, from the homeless to our high-tech workforce,” Liccardo said in a press release. “This plan provides a roadmap for accelerating the development of new housing in ways that are both smart and sustainable for our community. While achieving our goal will not be easy, we must think big and act boldly to address this growing crisis.”

It’s a tall order, but Liccardo said he hopes the city could team up with the private sector and drum up new funding sources to make it happen.

Topping the mayor’s plan are proposals to finance homes for the “missing middle”—teachers, firefighters and nurses—and expanding housing for students, faculty and staff at San Jose State University. He also recommends doubling down on downtown development and offering even more tax breaks to spur new investment.

Also included is a directive to generate new revenue through an “empty home fee,” higher affordability requirements and Redevelopment Agency-style tax-increment financing. There’s no mention of a commercial linkage fee, which other cities have adopted to require corporations to pay for the housing demand created by the jobs they bring.

Liccardo, who voted against an affordable teacher housing project earlier this year, said he wants the city to partner with school districts to make housing land available for educators. He also suggests working with CalTrans to find homeless housing sites, renovating struggling business districts and building more homes around transit hubs. The blueprint also calls for more secondary “granny units” and helping developers find suitable sites for new housing.

Notably, Liccardo also cites the importance of preventing displacement, which the city has failed to prioritize in the past. As a result, there’s no clear accounting of how many people have been pushed out of their homes because of new development, and no study on how much it has contributed to San Jose’s alarmingly large homeless population.

Though the mayor has resisted converting jobs land for housing, one of the bullet points mentions nixing “zoning barriers” to redevelop “bars, liquor stores, massage parlors, bail bonds, and other complaint-inducing uses” into mixed-use housing.

Finally, the plan also calls for regional buy-in, figuring out ways to encourage nearby cities to build their fair share of housing, too, instead of expecting San Jose to shoulder the burden of being Silicon Valley’s bedroom community.

A summary of the mayor’s proposal is listed below. To read his memo on the plan, which comes up for review at Wednesday’s Rules and Open Government Committee, click here.

  1. Financing housing for our Missing Middle. Craft a private-public financing mechanism for rent-restricted housing for modest and middle income workers, such as teachers, nurses, and police officers struggling with high living costs.
  2. Expand Housing for Students, Faculty, & Staff at SJSU. Focus on our future by making college more affordable, and teaching a more financially viable career, with SJSU’s help.
  3. Partner on Teacher Housing Projects. Encourage school districts to make district-owned land available for construction of affordable housing for teachers and staff.
  4. Better Utilize CalTrans Land for Homeless Housing. Work with CalTrans on sites they have identified to develop additional housing for the homeless, and identify other underutilized publicly owned land.
  5. Revitalize Struggling Business Districts. Encourage mixed-use developments that integrate housing that can create needed foot traffic in several declining neighborhood business districts.
  6. Double Down on Downtown. Eliminating constraints in development guidelines can facilitate more housing in towers adjacent to new transit, adding vitality to our core without the burden of freeway traffic.
  7. Transit-Oriented Affordable Housing in North San Jose. Eliminating longstanding legal hurdles can enable construction of 2,400 affordable homes adjacent to light rail and BART stations in North San Jose.
  8. Encourage Secondary Units. With loosened regulations to encourage homeowners to build secondary units on their lots, the Housing Trust’s new pilot program can enable broader awareness of this opportunity.
  9. Protect Residents from Displacement. Focusing on expanding housing where it doesn’t currently exist with affordability requirements can ensure that new housing doesn’t push out vulnerable current tenants.
  10. Move Urban Villages with Existing Transit to the Front of the Line. Accelerating housing in those urban villages that already have light-rail and bus rapid-transit stops can enable housing development without the same road congestion.
  11. Better Identify Housing Sites to Prospective Developers. Scrap the redundant layers of zoning and land use designations, and create new on-line tools to help small developers identify the hard-to-find existing in-fill housing opportunity sites.
  12. Re-evaluate Fees to Encourage Construction. Calculate and collect development fees in ways that encourage new housing construction while ensure developers pay their fair share for parks, roads, and other needs.
  13. Incentivize Neighboring Cities to Do Their Share. Incentivize our surrounding jobs-heavy suburban cities to bear their responsibility for building housing through changes in regional transportation funding and fee formulas.
  14. Generate More Funding for Affordable Housing. Explore options to increase funding for affordability, such as an ‘empty home fee,’ higher affordability requirements for general plan changes, and tax-increment financing.
  15. Redevelop Nuisance Properties. Eliminate zoning barriers to enable transformation of bars, liquor stores, massage parlors, bail bonds, and other complaint-inducing uses to community-serving, mixed-use housing.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


    • What it really means is that Sam wants those of us who can afford to live here will be financing those who cannot afford to live here with tax dollars.

  1. > “This plan provides a roadmap for accelerating the development of new housing in ways that are both smart and sustainable for our community. . . .”

    Would some REALLY, REALLY smart progressive (I’m thinking of you, Waxy) explain how building 10,000 subsidized housing units, (which the occupants are unable to afford on their own) is . . . SUSTAINABLE?

    Maybe I’ve lost my command of the English language. What does SUSTAINABLE mean?

    • I’m more worried about the city being able to sustain roads, safety personal with what will amount to at least another 25,000 residents (this is a very conservative estimate)

      As someone who’s done the Palo Alto commute as recently as 2015, it’s unfair to all residents that they have to drive 18 miles for 1.5 hours each way because the job imbalance is so bad here. Guys like Sam, most politicians, have no freeking idea how bad it is. The only Mayor that ever gave a damn about traffic was Willie Brown, but that was only after he was forced to do the commute down 880 from Oakland for a San Jose event.

      Maybe that’s the solution.. Every new San Jose elected official has to live in Gilroy so they have to commute 18 miles to SJ.

      • Liccardo is pushing for housing near transit and more jobs in San Jose to fix the imbalance, so I’m not sure why you think he’s not aware of the issues?

        • > so I’m not sure why you think he’s not aware of the issues?


          Liccardo thinks that “affordable (i.e., subsidized)” housing is “sustainable”.

          Lucid, intelligent, thoughtful people who know where the subsidy comes from are aware that the subsidy is NOT sustainable.

          Liccardo appears to be unaware of the fact that those living in the “affordable” houses can’t afford them.

    • “What does SUSTAINABLE mean?”

      I’ve given up asking that same question. Apparently, “sustainable” means whatever the writer/speaker wants it to mean at the time—subject to change after the fact, if their feet are held to the fire regarding the meaning of that word.

      In this case, for as long as taxpayers subsidize this housing it will be “sustainable.” The already hard-bitten San Jose taxpayers will be asked told to ‘sustain’, ie: ‘subsidize’ these apartments (as if taxpayers don’t have their own housing expenses already). And since there are only so many tax dollars available, other deserving recipients will have to just cool their heels, and wait their turn in the lobby… and wait… and wait…

      As ALWAYS when the gov’t gets involved in something like this, it creates an eternal new bureaucracy. But property owners (along with the better off tenants) ALWAYS eventually find or create loopholes, so the rents close the gap with market rates. And taxpayers ALWAYS end up paying far more to “fix” a problem like this, which could be alleviated by simply allowing developers to build housing, instead of making “NO!” the city’s default answer to builders who WANT to provide housing. But if this scheme is permitted, as usual the government will demand a cut of the action, and that cut has to be paid by someone. In this case, it’s the taxpayers.

      If the city simply encouraged what San Francisco does and allowed developers build hundreds of units per acre in multi-storey high rises, it wouldn’t take many buildings to take the pressure off rents. The reason is simple; rents are set at the margin, just like stock or commodity prices. If there are 100 tenants looking for an apartment but only 95 apartments are available, rents will keep rising. But if 100 tenants are looking at 105 available apartments, competition will force rents lower because a vacant apartment is a 100%+ loss, since expenses don’t go away.

      Housing is a market like any other, it reacts to supply and demand. Right now there’s an inadequate supply. But the answer is NOT for the city to play landlord. Just keep the VTA fiasco in mind…

      (As a side note, I wanted to build a high rise apartment complex back in the ’80’s. The planning dep’t practically laughed at my proposal. They wanted 12/acre, and I wanted to build 120/acre. Guess who got their way?)

  2. My favorite of all! Double down on downtown. Um ya weve already double down on that fiasco several times over. There must be more developer pals in the wings who didnt get in on the first several go arounds… When does the SJ voter wake the hell up???

  3. Many firefighters in this area make six figure incomes. I believe a study a few years go showed that most teachers in Silicon Valley are married to higher earning spouses and do pretty well (though younger and unmarried teachers are struggling). Offering housing for firefighters and teachers is politically popular but maybe not serving the greatest need.

    • If he mentioned firefighters why wouldn’t he mention police officers?? They are both in public safety and make about the same pay. The reason being, today’s world, unfortunately, its politically correct to hate against the police. Knowing this the mayor speaks like a political puppet!!

  4. wasn’t it just last year that we were hounded about “saving water” and then we saw our water bills shoot up? Granted we had one wet winter this last year – but what happens during the next drought? We haven’t built any new storage, the Golden Spigot (SCVWD) is inept as ever.

    and this is just talking about a mundane thing like water supplies which cannot sustain greater use – then there are the roads, schools, health delivery system. Maybe if the mayor acquired a Midas touch and could trash and roadside litter into water – that might help.

    why not commission some wildly expensive govt study that will show – in real dollars – – how all of this will pencil out without the taxpayer getting screwed.

  5. The communist ideology espoused by several members of the San Jose City Council has been in full swing at city hall for several years now. Also, is the perennial whining that “other cities” are not “doing their fair share” in providing housing for those that can’t afford to live in the Bay Area. I suspect South Bay the town Mayor Liccardo’s parents live in also do not want to house the great unwashed and their respective contagions in their midst and San Jose has been and continues to be the preferred social miscreant and other associative vermin as the perfect “dumping ground” to herd the untouchables into while feeding the justifiably oppressed, a diet rich in false hopes of economic and social equality (as long as they vote for the Leftist-Democratic party.
    I have given verbal and written testimonials at city hall for several years that San Jose has become an irreversible festering slum. Mayor Liccardo and his band of closet communists are continually pushing the envelope to redefine the doctrine of the irreversible festering slum…and they are succeeding.
    David S. Wall

  6. What! Hold on! So teachers, fire personnel, and cops make three times (if not more) as much as most San Jose residents and the mayor wants to give them subsidized housing! And you want the taxpayers to pay their rent? Good luck with that concept.

  7. > And you want the taxpayers to pay their rent? Good luck with that concept.

    Well, you could complain to someone, but I predict that nothing will be done.

    Hannah Arendt figured this out a number of years back:

    “rule by Nobody”

    “The greater the bureaucratization of public life, the greater will be the attraction of violence. In a fully developed bureaucracy there is nobody left with whom one could argue, to whom one could present grievances, on whom the pressures of power could be exerted. Bureaucracy is the form of government in which everybody is deprived of political freedom, of the power to act; for the rule by Nobody is not no-rule, and where all are equally powerless we have a tyranny without a tyrant.”

    . . .

    “Indeed, if we identify tyranny as the government that is not held to give account of itself, rule by Nobody is clearly the most tyrannical of all, since there is no one left who could even be asked to answer for what is being done. It is this state of affairs which is among the most potent causes for the current world-wide rebellious unrest.”

    — Hannah Arendt

    • The Mayors legacy will be the destruction of the San Jose Police Department via disasterous Measure B

    • SJO,

      If she was still alive Hannah Arendt would understand why President Trump is so hated and vilified by the bureaucracy: they didn’t choose him, the people did.

      Therefore, the bureaucracy ipso facto hates “We The People.” That’s obvious.

      If anyone doubts it they can question a decision of the EPA or the local building department. “The people” are treated like a Cold War enemy: plenty of smiles… but just try to get what you’re asking for, no matter how reasonable or according to black letter law it is.

      Karl Marx also worried about his Communist Revolution being co-opted by a nameless, faceless bureaucracy.

      Well, as Gomer Pyle would say, Surprise, surprise! Because it’s happening right here in River City… ☹

  8. Let’s see. We have practically limitless throngs immigrating from China, Russia, Pakistan, India, Vietnam, Philippines, Mexico, Brazil, El Salvador, Cambodia, England, Somalia, Poland, Syria, Finland, Canada, Denmark and Australia.
    Oh yeah. 25,000 new houses will solve this “crisis”.

    And I wonder. Just why did we EVER have land use codes restricting secondary units? Wasnt the idea to preserve the quality of life in our city? Is that no longer important?

  9. Licardo has yet to make good on his promises to flood victims, ( this is not the first time he had turned his back on the poor of this city. allowing the city to decay while funding “spastic” burning man art that is put up in san jose with out public input.the mayor and the city council are an out right embarrassment to the population of san jose
    please do us all a favor and resign………p-lease

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