Santa Clara County Greenlights $75.5M for Six New Affordable Housing Developments

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors today approved $75.5 million for six new affordable housing projects. The six developments will add 758 homes for low-income households in the next several years.

Additionally, $2 million in one-time state grants were approved to double the capacity for a motel shelter program for families with children.

"Thanks to the residents of Santa Clara County who approved a $950 million affordable housing bond in 2016, the board is able to approve another new wave of housing projects. This means more people, more families, and more children are getting off the streets,” said Supervisor Cindy Chavez, one of the architects of the Measure A Affordable Housing Bond.

“Santa Clara County has a goal to achieve a ‘functional zero’ in five years, meaning the number of housing placements for families in the county is greater than the number of families entering homelessness.

At this stage, however, county staff acknowledged in a report submitted today that the supervisors’ vote only commits an up-to capital funding amount for each development.  Spending will take place over a three-to-five-year period, followed by the actual construction.

“The Office of Supportive Housing is actively working with the development community to apply for every funding opportunity to accelerate the pace of progress including pursuing California Housing Accelerator funds,” the report said.

But the pace of construction of the Housing Bond-funded projects continues at a snail’s pace.

More than five years after voters approved the nearly $1 billion in bonds, the county reports that just 830 new housing units in nine projects are occupied, serving 1.640 people.

Another 11 are under construction, and the remaining 15 projects are in various financing stages. A total of 2,854 approved new units are not yet built, according to the staff report. The county said many of these remaining projects are ”nearing completion:”

Today’s action added another six projects, with 758 units, to the list.

Despite the pace of construction, county officials remained optimistic. “The latest funding adds significantly to the efforts in ending homelessness,” the county said in an afternoon press release.

Because 3,600 of the homes now funded are for extremely and very low-income households, the county claimed that it is ”more than 75% of the way to its goal of 4,800 new apartments for extremely and very low-income households by 2026.”

It remained unclear whether a dramatic acceleration of financing and construction could achieve that goal, given the progress of the first five years, but that is the date promised to voters who approved the Measure A Affordable Housing Bond in 2016.

Tuesday’s approved projects include one site in Sunnyvale (Orchard Gardens), which became the eighth city in Santa Clara County to now have a 2016 Measure A funded development.

“Sunnyvale has long been focused on affordable housing to serve the most vulnerable in our community. Orchard Gardens is a shining example of how the right mix of partners, funding and vision can bring these complex projects to fruition,” said Sunnyvale Mayor Larry Klein. “We’re extremely proud that it’s the first Sunnyvale project to receive 2016 Measure A funds, and we look forward to continued collaboration with First Community Housing and all of our partners to create more affordable housing in Sunnyvale.”

The board allocation of $75.5 million will allow the six new housing developments  to apply for construction tax credits this spring.

The 656 new apartments and 102 new acquisition and rehabilitation units could be occupied by up to 2,521 people. The following is a breakdown of the unit mix and target population:

  • 113 apartments will be for permanent supportive housing (PSH) to help individuals and families with special needs to obtain and maintain permanent supportive housing
  • 122 apartments will be for rapid rehousing (RRH) to assist homeless working families and individuals regain permanent housing;
  • 35 apartments will be for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families
  • 173 apartments will be affordable to extremely low-income (ELI), those earning 30% or less of the Area Median Income (AMI)
  • 176 apartments will be affordable to very low-income (VLI) households, those earning 50% or less of AMI
  • 148 apartments will be affordable to low-income (LI) households, those who are earning between 51% and 80% of AMI
  • 10 apartments will be for resident managers

Here are the six projects:

  • San Ignacio Avenue, San Jose, up to $5 million, converting a 150-room Residence Inn into 102 affordable and supportive housing units
  • Weddell Dr, Sunnyvale, up to $19.65 million for 91 new, and 30 rehabilitated apartments at Orchard Gardens
  • California and Bryant streets, Mountain View, up to $9.75 million for 120 apartments with Related Housing and Alta Housing
  • Bellarmino Place, Grand Avenue and Race Streets, San Jose, up to $10.55 million for 116 new residential units
  • Hawthorne Senior Apartments, North 15th St, San Jose, up to $19.55 million for 103 apartments with the county Housing Authority
  • McEvoy and Dupont Family Apartments, San Carlos and McEvoy streets, increase to $38.5 million for 361 affordable housing units

Here are the allocations so far by household category:

  • $715 million or 89% of the $800 million in Housing Bond funds that are dedicated to low-income households
  • $33 million  or 33% of the $100 million in Housing Bond funds for moderate income households those between 81% and 120% of the area median income
  • $25 million or 50% of the $50 million  in Housing Bond funds that can be used to assist first-time homebuyers.

Facing what appeared to be continued sluggish performance in actually building the housing units financed by the Housing Bond, supervisors last November approved a referral from Chavez directing the administration to report to the board on the ability of the County to meet permanent supportive housing goals as Housing Bond funds are depleted.

Supervisors expressed concerns whether there would be an adequate pipeline of development to fully use all of the Housing Bond funds and meet the cunty’s housing production goals.

“To meet our supportive housing goals, the county needs an additional 209 units of permanent supportive housing and 1,008 units of rapid rehousing, for a combined total of 1,217 supportive housing units,” staff reported today.

The board’s action today leaves $85 million left to allocate.

“The administration has been working to establish a robust, dynamic, and geographically diverse pipeline of Housing Bond-eligible housing developments,” the report said. “Over the past two years this has included several strategies to accelerate housing production, including the development of county-owned properties and partnering with other government agencies on the development of properties they control.”

The report estimated that approximately 1,700 to 2,100 additional units can be funded through county-controlled properties and existing partnerships.  It projected up to 6,000 additional units, in 61 projects, in addition to the six projects approved today that could help reach the county’s goals.

“[The] 2016 Measure A developments have changed the lives of 1,640 people with the opportunity to live in an affordable apartment,” read the county’s Jan. 8 press release. The first development opened in Cupertino in 2019 and is designed for seniors who have experienced homelessness.

Cupertino resident David Webb, 62,who was employed in construction for most of his life, became homeless when medical conditions put him out of work, the county reported.

Before the Veranda opened, he frequented shelters and lived along the freeway, where each day was a battle to stay safe. Getting the keys to his first apartment, he said, made him feel more human.

“Once I ended up there – homeless – it became easier and easier to stay there and it became harder and harder to work your way out of that hole,” Webb told the county.. “To pay my rent, it makes me happy every month. I am just so grateful that I have this place, and that I have my own key to my own front door.”

Tuesday’s approvals also include $2 million to double the capacity of a motel shelter program that will now be able to assist 88 unhoused families with children per night. The expansion is part of the countywide Heading Home campaign to end family homelessness, and will serve as a critical resource to bring homeless families indoors as they are connected to permanent housing.

“To sustain the progress and meet the county’s long-term housing goals, it will be critical to tap numerous other funding sources beyond the 2016 Measure A Affordable Housing Bond, such as utilizing the State’s Homekey program and looking at creative options for County-controlled properties,” according to the county.

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.

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