May 14, 2020

Policy Rundown – May 14th, 2020


Welcome to SV@Home’s Policy Rundown, your need-to-know overview of important housing policy actions and developments from the past two weeks.

New Proposals for Rental Assistance Are In Play

This week, proposals came out of both DC and Sacramento to respond to the housing crisis emanating from the employment losses due to COVID-19.

In Washington, Speaker Pelosi announced a new $3 Trillion stimulus package—coined the HEROES ACT– that included $100 billion in funding for rental assistance and another $75 billion to help low-income homeowners. This bill faces an uphill battle in the Senate, so we need you to voice your support. Check out our Action Alert here and take action!

In Sacramento, Senate Democrats unveiled a proposal to respond to budget challenges and plan for the State’s economic recovery. Included in the proposal is a new program that would allow tenants to pay back rent, without interest, over a ten-year period. Landlords would agree not to evict tenants in exchange for State tax credits in an amount equal to the value of any lost rent. Read more here.

Mountain View begins East Whisman Implementation

Last week, the Mountain View City Council approved the first new residential development in the recently adopted East Whisman Precise Plan, an important step towards fulfilling the SV@Home-endorsed Plan’s robust housing goal of 5,000 new homes. SummerHill’s 463-unit development includes a variety of housing types, both rental and ownership, as well as affordability at a number of income levels. SV@Home was glad to support this proposal in the East Whisman area and hopes to see even more developments like this in the future as well as opportunities for 100% affordable developments that will help the city reach the Plan’s 20% overall affordability goal.

Mountain View Adopts Improvements to Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance

On Tuesday, the Mountain View City Council voted unanimously to expand the City’s Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance (TRAO), which defines the benefits available to tenants being displaced by redevelopment. The Council-adopted staff proposals included increasing the special circumstances benefit for households with dependent children, seniors, or people with disabilities from $3,000 to $8,000, along with other modifications such as increasing flexibility for when tenants receive their payments. In addition, the Council supported new requirements, including raising the age of eligible dependent children to 19 to take into consideration students finishing high school. While the Council chose not to add new requirements to cover moving expenses, city staff signaled that they could be considered in the future as part of the City’s broader anti-displacement strategy. The staff report and proposed ordinance can be found here, and SV@Home’s letter supporting the modifications adopted by the Council can be found here.

San José Budget Season

Budget Season kicked off in San José last week with Mayor Liccardo issuing a statement (summarized at the bottom of his office’s budget page) and the City Manager releasing his proposed budget. With the City’s General Fund revenue projected to drop by as much as 9.5%, this is sure to be a difficult process. Community budget meetings begin Wednesday at 6:00pm. Details are available here. The City Council will also be holding study sessions on the budget starting at 9:00am this Thursday and Friday (May 14th and 15th). SV@Home will be listening in to the Housing Section, expected to be Thursday in the morning, to understand plans for the Housing Department’s budget, including the expenditure of Measure E funding.

With Measure E’s passage earlier this year, San José will have additional resources to address housing challenges, though the amount collected this year may be lower than expected due to pandemic-related economic challenges. Because there are so many families struggling to pay for rent, food, and other essential needs, any Measure E funds collected will most likely be directed to immediate needs– emergency rental assistance to stave off eviction and foreclosure and housing for homeless residents, including tiny homes.

As we look past the immediate crisis and to recovery, we know that the construction and preservation of new affordable homes will be essential. We understand the need for the budget to focus on immediate needs at this crucial point in time. But in future budget years, we will advocate– and ask you to stand up in support– for the funds to be committed to the production and preservation of permanent affordable housing.

Commercial Linkage Fee Updates

Due to COVID-19, San Jose leaders put a pause on the consideration of a Commercial Linkage Fee (CLF), a new revenue source that would support affordable housing development in the city. A CLF is a fee on new commercial development to offset the impact it will have on the need for more affordable housing for new workers. Last week, the City Manager’s Office confirmed that the process would start up again soon with a public comment process leading to Council action in August.

This is very good news. While the economic situation in the region is clearly different than it was in early March, the local demand for affordable housing will only increase as we move to recovery. If we learned any lesson over the past decade it is that job growth must be accompanied by expanded access to affordable housing. If not, we will only exacerbate the housing crisis.

This remains a tremendous opportunity for San Jose and a high priority for us. Stay tuned for opportunities to get engaged!

Santa Clara County Eviction Moratorium Update

On Tuesday, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors considered extending the County’s eviction moratorium beyond its current expiration date of May 31st, but opted not to take immediate action.  The Board will consider the extension of the eviction protections again at its May 26th meeting. At the same meeting, the Board will consider amendments to the existing moratorium to provide additional clarity on tenants’ rights and repayment of back rent.

Since the beginning of the Stay in Place order, SV@Home has worked to protect households unable to pay rent. The County’s eviction moratorium is crucial in keeping people in their homes, but we recognize that these protections are only effective if they are understood and followed. More needs to be done to educate both tenants and landlords, and to protect tenants who are threatened with eviction in violation of the ordinance. We also know that, while these immediate steps to prevent evictions have been extraordinarily important, there is significant uncertainty about how back rent will be paid when eviction moratoriums end. As we all wait for federal and State action on emergency rental assistance further direction from the Board will be essential in supporting housing stability.