SCC Supes to Vote on $350M in Bonds for Affordable Housing

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors is poised to approve the second tranche of Measure A funding on Tuesday—$350 million for the construction of affordable housing.

In 2016, more than two-thirds of county voters approved Measure A—a $950 million housing bond with the goal to create 120 new affordable housing developments over the next decade.

So far, county supervisors have allocated upward of $533 million for 34 housing developments totaling 2,969 new apartments and 618 renovated units.

Of those 34 projects, four have been completed; 217 of the 2,969 new apartments will be occupied this spring and summer; and 332 of the 618 refurbished units are occupied as well.

Now with the second tranche, the county hopes to purchase and build several more sites to reach its goal of 4,800 new units by 2027.

Consuelo Hernandez, Director of Santa Clara County’s Office of Supportive Housing said 12 sites have already been identified around the county.

With the $350 million allocation, the county is in talks to purchase four sites through a collaboration with the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, along with seven sites in Mountain View and one site in Los Altos.

Hernandez said the Los Altos one is particularly exciting because it will be the first affordable housing site to open in the city, with potential for 90 units.

She also noted that the county, in collaboration with nonprofit and county partner Destination: Home, is looking to identify and purchase more properties in Palo Alto.

Hernandez noted that through collaborations with cities and non-profits, in addition to supplemental state funding through Project Homekey, the county has been able to make the money last longer and is already ahead of its Measure A timeline.

“We are in our fourth year and we are over 62% of our goal,” Hernandez said in front of the site for a new affordable housing complex in downtown San Jose.

An affordable housing complex, 4th and E. Younger Apartments, is expected to open by Dec. 2022. It was funded through Measure A housing bonds passed by voters in 2016. (Jana Kadah/Bay City News)

The site, located on Fourth Street and East Younger Avenue, is projected to be completed by December 2022 and have 93 affordable units.

It is one of the county’s three new sites that will be ready in 2022.

In 2021, despite pandemic-related delays, the county will still be opening four different housing sites.

In a few weeks, the Leigh Avenue Senior Apartments will open to provide 63 affordable housing units.

In September, two other affordable housing sites will also open: Calabazas Apartments in Santa Clara, with 80 supportive housing units, and Quetzal Gardens in San Jose, which that provide 28 supportive housing units for struggling families.

And by December 2021, Iamesi Village, also located in San Jose, will open with 109 supportive housing units—of which 49 will be dedicated to unhoused veterans, Hernandez said. Affordable housing has “never been more important because the homeless problem in Santa Clara County and the Bay Area has been exacerbated by Covid-19,” architect of Measure A Supervisor Cindy Chavez said.

On any given night, there are at least 10,000 unhoused people sleeping on Santa Clara County streets and with the state eviction moratorium set to expire at the end of June, that number may increase exponentially.

“We have tens of thousands of households that are one paycheck away from being on the streets, and now with incomes decreasing and debt increasing these families are more vulnerable than ever,” Ray Bramson, Chief Impact Officer of Destination: Home said. “That’s why projects like (these) and the work of Measure A is so critical.”

Bramson warned that without long-term solutions like building more affordable housing, “we’re never going to escape the troubles in this pandemic and you’re never gonna see people off the streets.”

But Bramson, Hernandez and Chavez are hopeful.

“We’re in a really great place right now,” Chavez said. “We have lots of housing that’s in the pipeline. It just needs to be fully funded.”

7 Comments

  1. Who chooses whom and how long does the “whom” get to live in these “Affordable Housing-Government-subsidized Housing Projects?”

    Do the “whom” receive a “fee simple” entitlement?

    Watch the County start to “buy-up” single-family homes to put their “Government-subsidized Housing Projects” into refined residential neighborhoods. Gentrification in reverse.

    Will the “whom” be loyal to the Government sponsors of their “entitlement?”

    Maybe. Maybe not.

    The “Borrowed Money” will run-out and the Piper, and yes…the Piper will be paid.

    The real winners…The sinking, virulent parasites of the Non-profit Housing Industrial Complex and their minions.

    But, the “Voters” gave the Supes the money to sooth their own consciences thinking the Homeless problem would come to end by throwing borrowed money at the problem.

    Only the really stupid people believe in the aforementioned.

    Homelessness is going to continue to grow.

    Wait and see when the eviction moratorium runs out.

    David S. Wall

  2. I still want to know if the county wants to include anything in the Diridon Station area.

    (Will that “SPUR” Google to fence or gate its properties, including “public amenities”?

  3. PART I: Myopic Policymakers Beget Half-Assed Policy

    The houseless headcount in Santa Clara County was nearly 10,000 persons in early-2019 (https://www.sccgov.org/sites/osh/ContinuumofCare/ReportsandPublications/Documents/ 2015%20Santa%20Clara% 20County%20Homeless%20Census%20and%20Survey/ 2019%20SCC%20Homeless%20Census%20and%20Survey%20Report.pdf). The housing-burdened, i.e. those living in households who pay more than 30% of their incomes for housing, is a much higher figure (https://oehha.ca.gov/calenviroscreen/indicator/housing-burden). Nearly one-third of households in owner-occupied housing and almost 45% of households in rented housing in Silicon Valley are estimated to be housing-burdened (https://siliconvalleyindicators.org/data/place/housing/ housing-affordability/housing-burden-percent-of-households-with-housing-costs-greater-than-30-of-income/). That means about 700,000 people in Santa Clara County–about 35% of the population–are housing-burdened–70 times more than the estimated number of the houseless, who are only the tip of the iceberg (https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/santaclaracountycalifornia/HSG010219).

    Any economic setbacks push a portion of the burdened into the houseless abyss, especially because the vast majority of us live paycheck-to-paycheck (https://www.prnewswire.com/ news-releases/number-of-americans-living-paycheck-to-paycheck-on-decline-despite-pandemic-301134207.html). Interruptions in the work/income routine or unexpected expenditures, e.g. an illness or a major car repair, regularly produce household crises of insufficiency. This means that in focusing on the unhoused only, our elected officials seriously underestimate the scale of the affordability/living wage problem.

    But discounting economic and social problems is what establishment politicians like our County Supervisors are groomed and conditioned to do. Their policy approach consists always of infinitesimally incremental, “fiscally responsible” nudges. Holistic and scaled interventions are to be avoided as these require fiscal firepower, i.e. revenues, that must come from the bank accounts of the elites who underwrite and enable the political careers of those very same elected officials. Bold solutions also requires activist government, something shunned by neoliberals of every stripe and color.

    This results in a policy like Measure A, the subject of Ms. Kadah’s article, that combines a large price tag with shortsighted and truncated policy. That Measure seeks to build or preserve upwards of 5,000 housing units over a 10-year period in a county that had an affordable housing shortage of upwards of 70,000 housing units (https://www.sccgov.org/sites/scc/Documents/FAQs-from-OCT-4-BOS-Revised-Footnoted.pdf). The magnitude of the affordable housing shortage was known by County officials when Measure A was formulated and put before voters in 2016. Our County leadership consciously put forward a proposal to tackle one-twelfth (8.3%) of the estimated and accumulated affordable housing deficit. A half-assed proposal would have been a plan to build at least 35,000 housing units in the county in five years; Measure A was not and is not even close to being in the neighborhood of the half-assed.

  4. PART II: Of Devils and Details

    Santa Clara County Measure A (2016), now five years old, has been flouted as a major initiative—serious heavy lifting on the part of the County—to address the considerable accumulated shortage of housing and its exorbitant cost. Through an initiative that garnered 67% support at the ballot in November 2016, the Board of Supervisors were authorized to issue up to $950 million in County general revenue bonds (https://ballotpedia.org/Santa_Clara_County,_California,_Affordable_ Housing_Bonds,_Measure_A_(November_2016). The bonds are to be sold in staggered batches during a 10-year period with each batch to be paid back over a 30-year period. The County’s proceeds from the sale of the bonds are to be used to assist the unhoused, purchase and rehabilitate housing structures and construct new housing with the overall aim of adding or preserving up to 5,000 housing units over a 10-year period.

    Issuing bonds also involves paying millions in commissions and fees to Wall Street underwriters and banks and, all told, about $900 million in interest payments to the wealthy people and institutions who will buy and hold these bonds over 30-year periods. All told, Measure A will eventually cost taxpayers an estimated $1.9 billion which will be shared about equally between wealthy bondholders and banks, on the one hand, and by the houseless and housing insecure in Santa Clara County, on the other (https://www.sccgov.org/sites/scc/Pages/Affordable-Housing-Bond-Measure-A.aspx).

    The bonds are to be repaid by a flat tax of between $10.76 and $12.66 per $100,000 of the assessed value of enrolled residential and business property in the county, with exemptions for government, religious and non-profit-owned property (https://www.sccgov.org/sites/scc/Documents/Tax-rate-statement.pdf). Flat taxes don’t increase with the value of the property or parcel and are regressive by nature: more valuable residential and business property owners don’t pay a greater proportion of assessed value than those owning less valuable property. Thus, while property owners (less than half of the county’s population) will bear the brunt of the nearly $2 billion cost of Measure A, smaller property owners will bear a disproportionate share. Furthermore, many landlords will be able to pass additional property tax costs onto tenants in the form of increased rents.

    Measure A combines a skinny approach to perhaps the most serious socio-economic issue facing county residents with an obese financing scheme that lines the pockets of the wealthy more than it puts roofs over the heads of those sleeping on the streets. Contrast this approach to housing initiatives in San Francisco, Portland and Seattle in the past three years that exclusively tax wealthy households and/or corporations without incurring additional public debt. Relative to Santa Clara County, each of those initiatives pack a bigger housing punch and uses straight out progressive taxation to fairly and responsibly finance the intervention (https://sanjosespotlight.com/will-south-bay-keep-expanded-homeless-housing-post-pandemic/#comment-51122).

  5. PART III: Go Big! Go Public! Go Spartans!

    Publicly-financed housing on publicly-owned land is the affordable way out of the houselessness crisis. One of the best local examples of this is San Jose State University (SJSU) on-campus housing for students, faculty and staff. That housing consists of a three-block area bounded by San Carlos Street, San Salvador Street, 7th Street and 10th Street with a total surface area of 12.68 acres (https://www.sjsu.edu/fdo/docs /sjsu_complete_master_plan_hi-res.pdf). The “Campus Village” consists of six publicly-built, publicly-owned and publicly-operated residence structures ranging in height between 3 and 15 stories.

    The six structures, built over a period of 60 years, offer a wide range of residential/living arrangements, including efficiencies and apartments consisting of studios, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, three-bedroom, four-bedroom or five-bedroom apartments. These residences can house a total of about 4,200 people with upward flexibility for a couple of hundred more residents if needed (https://www.housing.sjsu.edu/docs/ HousingBrochure_2020.pdf). That’s about 332 people per acre or about 40 times San Jose’s average population-to-land density of 8.5 persons per acre (http://www.usa.com/rank/california-state–population-density–city-rank.htm; https://www.california-demographics.com/cities_by_population).

    Amenities and services include off-street parking; furniture and kitchen appliances; all basic utilities (water, electricity, sewerage, heating and cooling); wi-fi internet access; and internet-based TV. There is a Resident Activity Center, a common area available to all residents, with billiards, ping pong and fussball tables, a piano, meeting, study and TV rooms. There is a Village Market convenience shop, computer labs and staffed courtesy desks in each building to provide safety, security and information 24 hours a day. Public bus and light rail stops are 5-15 minutes by foot and all facilities are accessible for the physically-challenged.

    This housing is well-maintained and located within walking distance to many other government-produced amenities and services at SJSU, not least of which are public sports and health facilities, restaurants, theaters, a library, a primary and specialty healthcare facility and a campus police force. The monthly rental rates—that include housing and all amenities enumerated in the above paragraph—range between $933 and $1,251 or an average of about $1,120 per living space. All told, give or take, this is about half of what housing space costs in the private market and the latter does not include the significant amenities and services available to SJSU residents. Rents collected from residents over time recovers the costs of construction, maintenance and upkeep (https://www.sjsu.edu/fdo/docs /sjsu_complete_master_plan_hi-res.pdf; https://www.housing.sjsu.edu/docs/HousingBrochure_2020.pdf; https://www.sjsu.edu/wellness; https://www.sjsu.edu/campus-life/safety.php; https://www.sanjoseinside.com/news/displaced-sunnyvale-homeless-residents-are-a-symptom-of-a-broader-regional-issue/#comment-1698724). Eliminating private landlords means rents can be set at levels that are affordable and contribute to long-term recovery and replacement costs. If the County can pay for Measure A bonds over a 30-year period, they can certainly spread cost recovery periods for public housing for an equally long period.

    Can anyone point to any private housing that even approximates the scale or the degree of efficiency, sustainability and economy of land and resource use of community housing at SJSU? Or that provides equally affordable housing, amenities and services with such equity? The County Board of Supervisors should take their cues from the Facilities Development and Operations Department at SJSU (https://www.sjsu.edu/fdo/) for guidance and advice on planning and building affordable housing on County-owned land in all county districts.

  6. This SJSU nonsense

    How many times has this been debunked

    They charge by occupant and they don’t price based on cost so one one knows what the real costs are. They could be making a killing or losing thier shirt, its all lost in incredibly messy university budgets and accounting.

    The cheap rents are a space, less than a studio – that is a shared room with a common bathroom at the end of the hall, and thats almost a thousand a month, some of those have triple occupancy. The three bedrooms have six occupants, all charged about a grand PER OCCUPANT not per unit. Six occupants, $6000 for a three bedroom.

    CHARGING PER OCCUPANT MAKES THOSE UNITS MORE EXPENSIVE THAN PALO ALTO. WAKE UP.

    Stop deluding yourself that you’ve stumbled on some great epiphany, you haven’t. University housing is terrible and it is expensive.

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