Earlier in the summer, the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury released a report called “Affordable Housing Crisis: Density is our Destiny,” which declared that “affordable housing is the issue of the day in Santa Clara County” and called for drastic action. The solutions outlined in the plan advocate for higher-density housing in general, and more affordable housing in particular.
The report includes 39 findings and recommendations for the County and its 15 cities to address the housing crisis, including new fees on employers (Commercial Linkage Fees), density bonuses for affordable housing near transit, and simplified Accessory Dwelling Unit requirements. The report was clear that the response to the housing crisis must include regional coordination and collaboration and that it must come with a sense of urgency. This means that, while each individual jurisdiction needs to take actions and develop policies in response, unless everyone is working together we won’t solve the problem. As a result, one of the most prominent recommendations in the report was that all Santa Clara County jurisdictions form a Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) subregion to plan collectively for new housing growth.
All 15 cities in Santa Clara County and the County itself were required to respond to the Grand Jury Report within 90 days from the June 21st release. As a result, local jurisdictions have agendized conversations about the report findings. Cities are required to detail what they have already completed, what they plan to study, and any disagreements based on existing conditions. To date, Morgan Hill, Cupertino, Santa Clara County, Los Altos, Campbell, Los Gatos, Gilroy, Palo Alto, Saratoga, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara have discussed the findings.
It is promising that those cities that have responded to date have indicated that they have implemented some of the recommendations already. Most notably, cities have noted that they have already adopted or updated their Inclusionary Housing and Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinances. The responses to date have been varied, but there is general interest in exploring the creation of a RHNA sub-region.
Amidst the Grand Jury Report discussion on September 11th, San Jose voted to continue discussion of implementing Commercial Linkage Fees (CLF) to fund affordable housing through fees collected on new commercial development. This is an exciting step forward for the City. It is anticipated that the Council will approve both the nexus study, which is required by law, and the feasibility study, requested by the Mayor. SV@Home has long advocated that San Jose conduct a nexus study to evaluate the potential for establishing a CLF. We will be there on the 18th to reiterate our position and encourage other advocates and concerned citizens to raise your voices!