Welcome to SV@Home’s Policy Rundown, your need-to-know overview of important housing policy actions and developments from the past two weeks.
Pushing for the State’s 2022-2023 Budget To Do More for Affordable Housing
California made investing in housing a priority in last year’s state budget. However, the $4 billion total for housing and homelessness in the Governor’s new proposal is only a fraction of last year’s $12 billion. While 2021 provided critical investments, it is important to keep up that momentum in 2022 to make progress in addressing our housing crisis.
The dramatic reduction in proposed funding for housing comes as a surprise and a disappointment, given the state’s huge budget surplus of an estimated $31 billion. Unfortunately, much of the proposed investments won’t be made until FY ’23-’24. That means the actual investments for this coming year would be less than the $4 billion outlined. For example, of $200 million proposed for “Mixed-Income Housing,” only $50 million would be spent during the current fiscal year — the rest would not be available for another whole year.
This is only the beginning of the annual budget process, with upcoming legislative hearings followed by an updated budget released in May. Further hearings, negotiations, and amendments will take place before both houses of the Legislature approve and the Governor officially signs it into law.
Over the course of this year’s budget process, we ask for your help as we join our partners to make sure the final budget better reflects California’s housing needs and keeps housing as a top priority. Read the California Housing Partnership’s summary of the Governor’s proposal here.
Two Homekey Projects Advance to Create Homes for Our Unhoused Neighbors
Last week, two Homekey projects moved closer to creating supportive housing for our unhoused neighbors! The first is Clara Gardens in Santa Clara, under development by Resources for Community Development (RCD), who co-hosted a community meeting with the City of Santa Clara to inform residents about the forthcoming project. RCD’s team shared renderings, fielded questions, and shared that the project had just received approval for $22M in state Homekey funding to renovate and develop the Bella Vista Inn to create the 120 new homes with supportive services for our residents most in need. Governor Newsom visited the Bella Vista Inn last week to meet with County staff and promote this critical state program.
The second project is the Residence Inn in San José, which received unanimous approval from the Santa Clara County Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners to purchase, fund, and commit administrative resources for the project to build-out 150 new homes. Homekey projects are an efficient, prudent, and effective way to swiftly produce desperately needed, deeply affordable housing in the Valley.
Santa Clara Board of Supervisors Gives Final Approval for Grant Avenue Teacher Housing Project in Palo Alto
Last week, the Santa Clara Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the 110-unit project for teachers at 231 Grant Ave in Palo Alto. Initially proposed by Supervisor Joe Simitian in January 2018 as the 231 Grant Educator Workforce Housing project, the development is sponsored by the County, City of Palo Alto, Meta (formerly Facebook), and participating school districts in Santa Clara County. The land is County-owned and funding for the project includes $3 million from the City of Palo Alto and $25 million of grant funding from Meta. SV@Home has been a strong supporter of the County’s proposal to improve workforce housing in the area and congratulates the County’s staff for their leadership for making the project a reality!
Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors funds new grant to create Community Development Corporations
Last Tuesday, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved $750,000 to go toward a grant program to provide technical assistance to community-based organizations interested in establishing Community Development Corporations (CDCs) to preserve, acquire, and develop affordable housing. The County’s action is part of a broader effort throughout the region to support community-based development initiatives and diversify the response to the affordable housing crisis. SV@Home is a strong supporter of this initiative.
CDCs have a rich history around the country of integrating economic development, community-led planning, and a diversity of approaches to affordable housing production. Both Los Angeles and San Francisco have long-established ecosystems of CDCs but Santa Clara County currently has none. While these grants are intended to seed some organizations early on, the long-term goal is to support the growth of these efforts throughout the County. The City of San José has a slightly different program under development with similar goals.
In addition to an initial round of direct technical assistance and capacity building grants, the County will support the Silicon Valley Council of Nonprofits to build out a series of workshops for additional organizations to gain some technical exposure with the goal of expanding and sustaining a local infrastructure of CDCs.
As cities explore innovative approaches to producing and preserving housing, we are glad that the County is playing this important supportive role. Non-profits can apply for the grant here.
PROJECTS WANTED: San Jose $150 Million Mega Affordable Housing NOFA
Yesterday, the City of San José provided information and resources for developers looking to build new construction affordable housing developments in the city. Staff shared program details including requirements, scoring methodology, alignment with the City’s Siting Policy, financing terms, and the application process. For details, visit the Housing Department’s NOFA page. To submit proposals, visit the City’s Biddingo page before Wednesday, February 9th, 2022 by 3:00pm PST.
All developers working on new construction affordable housing projects that qualify regardless of phase of the project should apply
Get Engaged in the Housing Element Process!
Your involvement in the Housing Element process in your city is going to make a difference! This is a great opportunity to get real, workable, feasible plans that can promote fair housing, give access to resources for lower-income families, and fight racial and economic segregation. Want to learn more and get involved? Check out our Housing Element Advocacy Toolkit, with resources, explainers, and a calendar of opportunities to get engaged in your city!
Are you a Cupertino resident? Become a member of Cupertino’s Housing Element Stakeholder Group! The city is seeking a wide range of perspectives for this 10-person advisory board, and everyone is invited to apply! Applications are open until January 31, 2022. Apply here
🏡 Eviction Moratorium and Rent Relief Update
Rent Relief Distribution and Availability: As of this month, State rent relief programs in Santa Clara County have distributed $78 million out of total applications requesting over $293 million. You can view the state rent relief dashboard here. Although local agencies, community organizations, and other advocacy organizations are working very hard, it can still take over a month to get the funds distributed, and the uncertainty and instability of this moment continues to be incredibly difficult for many already struggling. Despite a recent article by the Mercury News reporting that funds for rent relief are running low, it is essential that households with COVID 19 related outstanding rent apply for rent relief – this remains a tenant’s best protection against eviction.
Shadow Debt: Since the beginning of the pandemic, the challenges facing lower-income renters, and their landlords, have been complex. While the State and Federally funded emergency rental assistance programs have been effective in addressing back rent, many households borrowed and cut spending to pay rent along the way. Shadow debt, which is when a tenant takes a loan or credit card debt to pay rent on time, is not covered by the state rent relief program. However, organizations distributing emergency rent assistance are actively supporting those with shadow debt to seek prospective rent – up to three months of rent for future months, which can support the ability for the tenant to pay back loans incurred due to the pandemic or backfill depleted savings.
Eviction Court Updates: In California, the current law should protect tenants behind on rent from eviction, and the courts should only be proceeding with evictions for non-payment of rent if the tenant and landlord have applied for emergency rental assistance and been denied. Tenants do not need to wait to receive the rent relief to seek protection from the court. However, if a tenant receives an eviction notice they must appear in court, even if they have applied for assistance to assert these protections. This is confusing and complicated, and it is evident that many do not understand the process or are struggling to navigate through the system.
There are additional concerns about how the court is responding to the complexity of this stage in the moratorium. Unlike other courts in the region, the Santa Clara County eviction court is not offering a virtual option for appearances, despite increasing calls for them to do so given the Omicron surge. This is especially troubling because tenants are required to appear to enjoy existing protections.
Those working in the courts are also seeing shifts in the types of evictions being filed. Before the pandemic, the majority of eviction cases – “Unlawful Detainers” or “UD”s – were caused by a tenant’s “failure to pay rent.” More recently most evictions cite other causes, like “nuisance” or “breach of lease”. It is clear that this is partially a sign that the emergency assistance process is working, but there is concern that these alternative causes are being used as a way to bypass the eviction protections when a tenant cannot pay rent due to COVID impacts.
With the eviction moratorium protections set to expire in March, the challenges of keeping people impacted by the pandemic in their homes will continue. SV@Home continues to monitor the process, and advocate for expanded education and outreach, and for improved practices at the court.