May 19, 2017

BisNow: Silicon Valley Organization Works To Solve Affordable Housing Crisis


Check out Bisnow’s write-up on SV@Home and Affordable Housing Week 2017 (#ItsUpToUs).

See the original story at Bisnow.

Silicon Valley Organization Works to Solve Affordable Housing Crisis

By Julie Littman

Leslye Corsiglia is not a developer nor is she a real estate investor, but she is on a mission to build more affordable housing. The SV@Home executive director has been working with developers and city officials throughout Santa Clara County for the past two years to create policies that promote more affordable housing.

As part of Affordable Housing week, SV@Home is hosting dozens of networking and educational events about various issues surrounding affordable housing. The week will include housing tours in various cities, workshops, policy meetings, panels, networking events, an artist housing panel and screening of a movie about a homeless man. One of the solutions to the housing crisis is to get more people to support affordable housing through education. “If you don’t get the support to build, nothing gets built,” Corsiglia said.

SV@Home was created in July 2015 to fill a void in Silicon Valley. There was not a full-time housing organization working in the region. The nonprofit membership organization works with partners and corporations, such as Google, as well as for-profit and nonprofit developers, banks and equity organizations and individual members to find ways to build more affordable housing. The lack of affordable housing is nothing new in the San Francisco Bay Area and it is having immense impact on the region’s infrastructure. In Santa Clara County, 100,000 people each day commute outside of the county to work elsewhere in the Bay Area. Comparatively, 200,000 people commute into Santa Clara County each day from all parts of the Bay Area for work. In 2015, Santa Clara County added 64,000 jobs, but only 5,000 new units of housing. “We need to increase the supply here if we keep up job growth,” Corsiglia said.

Building housing near jobs is a part of the solution to building more affordable housing. She said the region needs to make better use of land and increase density. “When is it our freeways are just not going to move?” Corsiglia said. “Housing doesn’t cause transportation problems. It’s the lack of housing in the right place that does.” Creating more affordable housing can be done through multiple solutions that help moderate housing costs. The organization has been creating various policy changes to promote more viable housing solutions. SV@Home played a huge part in getting the $950M affordable housing bond on the ballot for Santa Clara County. The organization recently collaborated with the Valley Transit Authority to approve a housing policy where 20% of all housing built on VTA’s property would be affordable and affordable housing would make up 35% of housing systemwide. SV@Home also has worked with San Jose to get a 25% affordable requirement in urban villages as part of agreement with a developer. Developers can develop an urban village by right, which means they just have to meet the general plan and design code requirements to get approval.

Corsiglia, who served as the San Jose housing director for 14 years, helped create San Jose’s inclusionary housing requirement. She said when the city considered this requirement, staff met with every for-profit developer to get a better understanding of the situation. She said most developers know how to include affordable units and do so throughout the state. She said if fees rise too high, the price to develop becomes infeasible. “Landowners will just stop,” she said. “Fifteen percent to 20% requirements … [are] doable, especially if it comes with other incentives that allow for reduced setbacks or increased heights and other things that make a project more feasible.” As much as developers dislike affordable housing requirements, they are not to blame for increased housing costs. “Right now what is increasing costs is a lack of supply. We desperately need to increase supply,” she said.

Photo by Leslye Corsiglia, SV@Home.