Welcome to SV@Home’s Policy Rundown, your need-to-know overview of important housing policy actions and developments from the past two weeks.
Council to consider New Affordable Housing Siting Policy in San Jose
On Tuesday, August 31st, the San Jose City Council will consider adoption of an Affordable Housing Siting Policy, which will provide a new framework for the allocation of affordable housing funds. This action will be the culmination of a policy process stretching back to 2017, when the council raised concerns over the implementation of the city’s dispersion policy and whether affordable housing was being developed in all of the city’s neighborhoods. With this Council direction, the Housing Department entered into a series of stakeholder meetings and commissioned a detailed study from the Othering and Belonging Institute and the California Housing Partnership Corporation. The details of the proposed policy and the updated study are both included in a single document accessible here.
The policy recommendations are shaped by some overlapping goals:
- increasing affordable housing opportunities in parts of the city with significant social and economic resources and fewer affordable choices, as mandated by the State’s new Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Laws (AFFH)
- ensuring that the city simultaneously invests in expanding affordable housing resources throughout the city, including in lower-income communities where the needs are the greatest
- moving towards a more balanced mix of senior, traditional affordable, and permanent supportive/special needs housing throughout the city
- acknowledging an active pipeline of affordable projects currently under development
- creating a framework that is easily understood so that affordable housing developers and community members are clear about the process and intent
The staff’s proposed policy follows the consultant’s recommendation to phase the policy in over time, and divide the city into three categories:
- Category I includes higher resourced areas with proportionally less existing affordable housing
- Category III includes areas that currently have very high poverty rates and fewer resources, including much of the current downtown (the Diridon Station Area falls in this category, but the policy explicitly commits to significant investment there as the area is developed)
- Category II includes the rest of the city
The policy proposes two phases for implementation. In the first three years under Phase I some additional resources will be targeted at proposed developments in the resource-rich Category I neighborhoods with incentives for projects that have traditionally been difficult to site in these communities, including Permanent Supportive Housing. During phase II, significantly more of the city’s funds (60%) will be dedicated to proposed projects in Category I neighborhoods. The policy outlines a variety of additional incentives to facilitate the transition, and promises robust assessment and reporting to track the policy’s success and challenges.
A number of concerns have been expressed about the policy, including whether affordable housing will be approved in lower-income neighborhoods where residents want to see new development, and whether the rest of the city will be ignored in favor of projects in higher-resourced neighborhoods. A more significant concern is whether there will be adequate sites for feasible affordable housing development in Category I resource-rich neighborhoods, which are dominated by single family homes.
SV@Home has looked carefully at the staff recommendation and considered these concerns. After a thorough analysis, we believe that there will be funding available for all of the three categories, especially given the increased funding provided by Measure E and the recently-approved Commercial Linkage Fee. Additionally, based on our review, we believe that sufficient land is available in these higher-resourced areas and that these sites will still be competitive for state affordable housing funding, At the end of the day, we believe that the new siting policy will achieve its goal of better integrating affordable housing throughout the city and allow people of all incomes to live near their jobs, good schools, and other amenities.
That said, we do agree that ensuring that these opportunities exist over time is critical, and that it will require ongoing monitoring to ensure that the policy does not have a negative impact on the city’s ability to meet its Housing Element goals. We are pleased that staff’s proposal has acknowledged these potential challenges and that they have identified the just-begun Housing Element Update process as an ideal opportunity for the Housing and Planning Departments to dig into these questions and what land use and policy tools will be necessary to implement these important goals.
San Jose Holds Study Session on Parking and Transportation Management
At a special study session tomorrow beginning at 9am, the San Jose City Council will hear from experts who will discuss a series of recommendations regarding parking and transportation demand. This study session follows up on a January report the city had commissioned from the Urban Land Institute (ULI) that considered how the city can modernize its zoning code to reduce the cost of parking for development, particularly affordable housing development, and address the goals of the Climate Smart San Jose plan, which was approved by the Council in 2018. The meeting is informational, and no action will be taken at this time.
The city is considering making changes to minimum parking requirements, an action that could considerably reduce the cost of development. According to the report:
- Required parking drives up housing costs by 15% or more
- By unbundling parking, apartment rents can be decreased by as much as $200 per month. For a condominium, it can reduce the price by an estimated $43,000.
- The per unit cost of development can be reduced by $10,000 to $60,000 if parking is unbundled
City staff is recommending that the council revise its Parking and Transportation Demand Management Ordinance to eliminate minimum parking requirements citywide except for areas with existing contractual parking requirements. Additionally, the staff recommends that the city prioritize transportation demand management requirements for new development that provide infrastructure that keeps cars off the road, such as investing in public transit, walking, and biking. Examples include “unbundling” parking from development—separating the cost of parking from the cost of rent or providing a credit for people who don’t drive to their workplace.
The study session will be hybrid, so you can either attend in person or access via Zoom. If you are interested, you can connect in on Zoom. Public comment will be at the end of the session.
Emergency Rental Assistance Application Support and Eviction Moratorium Update
With the September 30th expiration of the California Eviction Moratorium looming, the Santa Clara County Superior Court will host an open house to assist tenants and landlords in applying for emergency rental assistance on Thursday, September 2nd from 10:30 am to 3:00 pm on the 8th floor of the Family Justice Center Courthouse, 201 North First St in San Jose. We believe this marks the first such event sponsored by the Court, which will become ground zero for eviction actions when the moratorium expires.
For months, hundreds of community workers and government employees have been working tirelessly to help renters and landlords impacted by the pandemic learn about and apply for emergency rental assistance. The process is complicated, especially without this support, and given the continued slow roll out of actual assistance checks, proof of a completed pending application is going to be the key for many to avoid eviction. The City of San Jose has opened an Eviction Help Center at City Hall open 8-5 daily, and has recently opened a second location at the Franklin McKinley School District Office.
The Santa Clara Superior Court has struggled during the pandemic, and has approved more evictions than any other court in the Bay Area despite the moratorium being in place. Calls for the Court to do more to get prepared for the expected wave of new eviction cases after September 30th have continued, but the Court has resisted taking additional steps that might mitigate unnecessary displacement, such as the mandatory pre-court mediation program implemented in San Mateo County. We are hopeful that sponsoring this open house will be the beginning of a broader set of programmatic and administrative reforms. Renters and landlords throughout the County are counting on the Court to successfully navigate the challenges ahead.
SV@Home recently partnered with the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley to create informational videos on the details of the Eviction Moratorium in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. The main takeaways: Stay in your home, Submit a declaration, and Seek rent assistance. For addition information on rental assistance programs in the County tenants and landlords can go to www.sccrenthelp.org or call 2-1-1. Tenants who receive a notice of eviction should contact the Law Foundation for legal advice and more information about the laws that can protect them. To contact or learn more about the law foundation, go to: www.lawfoundation.org/housing or call (408) 280-2424.
Opportunities to Learn More about the Housing Element Process Underway
Every eight years, cities throughout the state are required to update their Housing Elements to plan how they will meet their local share of new housing development (known as RHNA, or the Regional Housing Needs Allocation). In the Bay Area, it is our turn to begin this new Housing Element cycle, which covers the years 2023 to 2031.
Housing elements must identify adequate sites to show that sufficient homes can be built to meet the allocated housing need as well as to outline policies and actions that the jurisdiction will employ to prioritize and incentivize housing development and prevent displacement, among other requirements. The state requires that as part of the preparation of this update, local jurisdictions conduct robust public outreach to diverse stakeholders, including people with lower incomes and renters. Because broad public participation is both essential to the process and often hard to achieve, local jurisdictions formed the Santa Clara County Planning Collaborative, which is hosting a series of educational and discussion events to kick off the process – Let’s Talk Housing Santa Clara County.
There are several upcoming Let’s Talk Housing events where you can learn more and get ready to get involved. The meetings start with a general overview on why the Housing Element process is important and a little bit about how it will work. The meetings then break into smaller groups by jurisdiction, or by language, for more discussion. Registration links are below:
- August 30, 6 to 7:30 pm:Countywide (Virtual) Community Meeting: Santa Clara, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Milpitas
- Sep 2, 2021 6:00 to 7:30 pm: City of San Jose (Virtual) Community Meeting
In addition, the City of Mountain View has two upcoming in-person Housing Element community engagement events:
- September 2, 5 to 6pm: Pop Up #2 at the Farmers Market:
- September 3, 6:30 to 8:30pm: Community Workshop at City Hall
SV@Home, along with California YIMBY, Greenbelt Alliance, the Law Foundation, and many grassroots organizations, has formed a coalition to help housers get connected and involved in the Housing Element process. Check out our Housing Element Advocacy Toolkit, and email alison@siliconvalleyathome to be added to the coalition email list!
Some Jurisdictions Continue to Challenge their Housing Goals
Six jurisdictions in Santa Clara County have appealed their draft RHNA allocations to the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), requesting that the numbers of homes they have been asked to plan for be reduced– Palo Alto, Los Altos, Saratoga, Los Altos Hills, Monte Sereno, and the County of Santa Clara (as it relates to unincorporated areas of the county). You can read the letters of appeal and see the reasons these jurisdictions gave for appeals here.
SV@Home has read these appeals and believes they mostly are unfounded. The exception is appeal filed by Santa Clara County, which received an allocation close to ten times prior allocation for housing in the mostly rural unincorporated areas of the county. Santa Clara County has an agreement with neighboring cities to limit development in these areas, and so far only the City of San Jose has stepped up to honor that agreement by taking on a portion of the County’s RHNA allocation. It is important to note that the total number of homes allocated to the 9-County Bay Area will not change. Any reduction in an individual jurisdiction’s allocation will be passed to another jurisdiction that will then need to plan for their current goals plus the additional needs they would inherit from an appealing jurisdiction. We find it unfortunate that, given the depth of our housing need and the necessity of acting in coordination as a region, these jurisdictions are attempting to shift their fair share of the region’s homes to other counties, cities, and towns.
The State Department of Housing and Community Development, other local jurisdictions, and members of the public have until August 30th to submit comments on the appeals to ABAG.