Author Gregg Colburn discusses the causes of homelessness
June 29, 2023

Newsletter: Housing Happenings, More June Updates


Housing Happenings


“If you just suffer one misstep, like you lose your job and get another job immediately, but don’t get the paycheck for another two weeks, that can set you back so much because rent is so high here.” – Emily Ann Ramos

Today, to prevent evictions and displacement, San Jose is considering a tenant right-to-legal counsel and alternative housing collaborative court programs. Our Preservation and Protection Associate, Emily Ann Ramos, spoke with the San Jose Spotlight on the importance of these programs to protect tenants in San Jose. Check out the article here and be sure to join us for our Policy in Action (PIA@Home) on Tenant Right to Counsel this Friday, June 30th!


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Mountain View finally approves Google plan for North Bayshore

On Tuesday, June 13th , the Mountain View City Council approved the Google North Bayshore Master Plan, culminating eight years of often difficult planning and negotiations. The vote was unanimous and will pave the way for 7,000 new homes, of which as many as 1,000 will be affordable to low-income households.  The Google Master Plan is the centerpiece of the larger North Bayshore Precise Plan where additional homes planned for the coming years will bring the total to 9,850.  The new affordable homes will nearly double Mountain View’s stock of affordable housing.

Getting to this vote has not been a simple process. The approval of the North Bayshore Precise Plan in 2017 came after nearly two years of advocacy led by SV@Home, emboldening city officials and Google planners to grapple with the connection between jobs and housing and the importance of affordable housing to sustainable economic growth.   The result was an audacious commitment to redeveloping office parks as a complete community, integrating office expansion with new homes and neighborhood-serving commercial investment. This took real leadership on all sides and has served as a regional model for reimagining sustainable corporate campus redevelopment.

Versions of this plan have come before the Mountain View City Council a number of times since the specific plan’s adoption in 2017. There have been conflicts between land owners, strains with city leadership and within the city, a global pandemic, and growing uncertainty about how hybrid work models will affect traditional office development.  The fact that the Google Master Plan progressed among these many challenges is a testament to the tenacity and commitment of city staff and the Google/LendLease team.

SV@Home is a strong supporter of the plan approved by Council, even as we acknowledge that it is not everything that so many of us advocated for over recent years.  The original plan included a commitment that 20% of the new homes would be affordable – 15% to fulfill the city’s Inclusionary Housing requirements, and an additional 5% as a community benefit – over the course of a multi-decade build-out. As adopted, Google’s plan has scaled back its commitment to 15% of the housing as affordable but has pushed up the residential development timeline ahead of office expansion, front-loading the land dedications for affordable housing so that over 30% of new units in phase one will be affordable to households challenged to stay in our community.  These are not easy times, and the hurdles are finally cleared for getting shovels in the ground!


Sunnyvale City Council to Adopt Moffett Park Plan in July

On July 11th, the Sunnyvale City Council will vote on adopting the Moffett Park Specific Plan (the Plan). SV@Home has been actively involved in this multi-year planning process. We also hosted a virtual discussion in February with our community partner, Livable Sunnyvale, as part of our PIA@Home series (click here). The Plan envisions up to 20,000 new homes with 3,000 – 4,000 of them affordable to low-income residents.


There is broad consensus and support for both the vision and priorities that the Plan lays out.  We continue to advocate for additional tools and clarifying language in support of realizing the housing affordability goals to achieve true accessibility for people of all incomes. These tools include:

  1. clarity about how affordable housing will be prioritized in the community benefits structure;
  2. targeting a portion of the Housing Mitigation Fees (Commercial Linkage Fees) collected in the MPSP area to support more deeply affordable housing within the area; and,
  3. clarifying inclusionary housing requirements to ensure they are met within the plan area itself.

Click here to read SV@Home’s letter and both here and here for joint coalition letters that we sent to the City in partnership with other advocacy organizations.


We are going to need support as we get closer to the Council action on July 11th.  Stay tuned for future actions you can take to support the adoption of a plan that centers housing accessibility and inclusion. You can find more information on the City of Sunnyvale’s Moffett Park Specific Plan Website:


Author Gregg Colburn of “Homelessness is a Housing Problem” Debunks Housing Myths with Facts at the Mexican Heritage Plaza in San Jose

Last week, Destination: Home, SV@Home, and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation co-hosted Dr. Gregg Colburn, who presented key findings from his book, “Homelessness is a Housing Problem: How Structural Factors Explain U.S. Patterns,” co-authored by Clayton Page. Using data from cities across the country, Dr. Colburn compared the rates of conditions like mental health issues, drug addiction, poverty, and public assistance with rates of homelessness — and all the data pointed to a singular key cause for homelessness: inadequate supply of housing people could afford.

In fact, the analysis showed that residents of cities with high rates of poverty like Detroit or Chicago, were far less likely to be unhoused, than in cities like San Jose or Seattle which have lower rates of poverty. (See Figure 1) 


Colburn’s research was captured in a small number of key findings that explained why homelessness varies widely across different cities and counties:

Figure 1: Graph taken from

  • As median gross rent increases, so does the rate of homelessness. 
  • As the percentage of income below the poverty level increases, the rate of homelessness decreases. 
  • Homelessness is caused by systemic shortcomings, such as high rent levels and low vacancy rates, not individual factors.

Colburn also stressed that although investing in interim housing and shelters for the unhoused community is an important response to the suffering people currently experience, it does not address the root of the problem. Only creating a sufficient supply of stable affordable housing provides a meaningful solution to the homelessness harming so many of our neighbors and affecting our communities.


For more information on Gregg Colburn and Clayton Page Aldren’s findings click here.


It’s time to lower the statewide voter threshold to pass affordable housing bonds!

You may have heard about a statewide effort to amend the California Constitution to make it easier for communities to raise money for affordable housing. Currently, it takes a ⅔ majority of voters to pass local bond measures to fund much-needed affordable housing in the state. That high threshold creates an enormous barrier to the affordable housing we need. The proposed amendment, currently included in Assembly Constitutional Amendment (ACA) 1, would lower the threshold to pass bonds to fund affordable housing to 55% – the same level of voter support already required for bonds that support school facilities. Changing these rules has the potential to unlock billions to help give communities the tools they need to address their housing needs and meet their Housing Element and RHNA obligations. Stay tuned to learn more!


5th Cycle Housing Element Recap

The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) has released cities’ progress toward their housing goals through the end of 2022- just one month short of the end of the 8-year cycle. The results show we have collectively failed to build the affordable housing we need across the county. The chart below shows a consistent pattern of performance across Santa Clara County’s large and midsize cities: affordable housing production (red, orange, and yellow bars) significantly trails production of market-rate homes (blue bars) in almost every jurisdiction. While financing the number of affordable homes we need in Silicon Valley is incredibly challenging in our current environment, there are clear steps cities can take to remove barriers and encourage production. SV@Home will be working together with housing advocates in the new planning cycle to hold cities accountable for doing this work.  Learn more about the progress of your local jurisdiction on our Cities & Public Agencies pages, or view a table that compares the RHNA progress of all the Santa Clara County jurisdictions.

Moving into the 6th cycle: What’s different?

The 6th 8-year planning cycle, which began in the Bay Area on February 1, 2023, has the potential to be far more successful than the 5th cycle at generating the affordable homes we need– but its success depends on housing advocates staying engaged in their communities. Since the last planning cycle, California’s legislators have passed housing-forward legislation intended to help Housing Elements generate more affordable housing, address patterns of racial and economic segregation, and meet the unique housing needs of cities’ residents at every income level. For the first time, there are real consequences for cities that do not follow the plans they have made in their Housing Elements, including reduced land use control, steep fines, and legal action. Housing advocates can help by tracking the Housing Element policies that are important to them and communicating with HCD when cities fall short.


The consequences of noncompliance in the South Bay are growing for jurisdictions

The majority of the cities in Santa Clara County do not have Housing Elements that are certified by HCD as required by state law. Because the deadline has passed, these cities lose significant land use control and access to a variety of state housing and infrastructure grants. So far this year, at least 34 Builder’s Remedy projects (projects that cannot be denied by cities with noncompliant housing elements) with more than 6,400 housing units have been proposed in the Bay Area, including in San Jose (15 projects), Mountain View (5 projects), Palo Alto (3 projects), and Los Altos Hills (3 projects). Read SV@Home’s blog post about what else can happen when cities fail to adopt a compliant Housing Element by the deadline.


What is the Housing Element? 

Housing Elements are a critically important 8-year plan each California jurisdiction must create to meet the housing needs of all its residents at all income levels. Learn more in SV@Home’s Housing Element Toolkit!


San Jose adopts a new draft of the Housing Element Update

Last Tuesday, the San Jose City Council adopted what it hopes will be the final draft of the 2023-2031 Housing Element Update, which will now be submitted to the state Department of Housing and Community Development for review and potentially certification.  Under state law, San Jose Housing Element Update was to have been certified by HCD by January 31, 2023. This latest draft includes significant additional analysis and important details regarding timelines and processes for many of the critical programs and policies. These additions all accompany the site’s inventory for the development of 62,200 new homes; 28,000 of which are to be affordable to lower-income households. The draft includes revisions required by HCD in its December 2022 deficiency letter on the first draft.  It is not clear whether the revisions made have adequately met the statutory bar as interpreted by the state.

There are, however, three areas in which council members, community organizations, and housing advocacy groups have expressed significant concerns with the draft approved by the City Council. 

Failure to address the gap created by the deletion of the Community Opportunity to Purchase Act (COPA)

COPA was rejected by the City Council this past Spring and was a critical piece of the response to the need for an anti-displacement measure identified in the housing needs assessment due to the continual loss of affordable housing.  Community advocates, including SV@Home argued that the policy should remain an option and that council’s rejection highlights the risks that other policies, prioritized by communities where housing needs are most severe, may be similarly dismissed by this or future councils.  


Lack of transparency and public engagement in the final stages of the process

There was little or no public engagement and limited engagement by elected officials during the revision period from December 2022 to May 2023.  A number of council members and public comments have expressed concern about the transparency of the planning process and uncertainty that the Draft will meet state requirements to be certified. 


Failure to produce a compliant inventory of sites to accommodate housing needs

Multiple advocacy organizations and engaged community members have raised significant issues with the way that city staff has identified sites and calculated the realistic number of housing units that can be built on these sites – both core requirements for HCD certification.  A pretty comprehensive outline of these issues was submitted as a comment letter to the council and HCD

It remains to be seen whether these areas of concern will prevent HCD from certifying the draft adopted by the council. City staff did not receive a letter indicating that the draft was likely to be deemed in compliance before submitting it for adoption. A formal response is required within the next 60 days.

Links to the full document, including a redlined version that shows the revisions can be accessed through the city’s project website along with a matrix outlining the revisions made in direct response to HCD comments. 


ICYMI: June Happy Housers

Thank you to all who attended our June Happy Housers in Downtown Mountain View! Our partners from SV Pride and the Santa Clara County Office of LGBTQ Affairs celebrated Pride Month alongside us as we made some new friends and caught up with old ones too! We look forward to welcoming you at our next Happy Housers in August!


SV@Home Updates

Join us in welcoming Sintia Marquez Jimenez and Mariam Giday, our 2023 summer interns! We are so excited to have them join our team for the next couple of months and to support them in their professional journeys. Our team is passionate about empowering the next generation of housing advocates, and we cannot wait to see all that they do at SV@Home and beyond!

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