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

Next Tuesday: Tell the San José City Council to Support a Housing-Rich Diridon Station!

Fellow San José Housers! We need your support next Tuesday at 6:00pm at the San José City Council meeting when the Council will decide the future of Diridon Station. We need to urge the Council to approve Downtown West and a housing-rich Diridon Station Area Plan!

After years of community engagement and the hard work of many dedicated housers, neighbors, and community members, we must ensure all of the housing and affordable housing goals, plans, and projects that we fought for are included in the final package. On April 28th, the San Jose Planning Commission unanimously endorsed the staff-recommended Downtown West proposal and the amendments to the Diridon Station Area Plan. Now we need the Council to do the same!

The City has a tremendous opportunity to create a Diridon that includes thousands of new homes and prioritizes deed-restricted affordable units, all while taking action to respond to displacement pressures. The Council’s decision will shape the area’s housing future and set the city on a path to achieving its vision of a vibrant, housing-rich Station Area with homes for people of all incomes.

Here’s what we support:

  1. Google’s Downtown West proposal including 4,000 new homes, 25% of them affordable (1,000 new deed-restricted affordable homes!), and a $154.8 million Community Stabilization Fund that will provide real resources for affordable housing production, preservation, and housing stability/tenant protection in addition to addressing other community needs.
  2. The proposed amendments to the Diridon Station Area Plan, which would create space for 13,519 new homes across the district, 25% of them deed-restricted affordable.
  3. The City’s Affordable Housing Implementation Plan, which provides guidelines for achieving affordable housing production, preservation of existing affordable homes, and protections for vulnerable residents at risk of displacement.

Tell the Council you support Downtown West and a Housing-Rich Diridon Station by adding your name here and by joining your fellow Housers at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, May 25th at 6:00pm!

San José Considers New Strategies for Missing Middle Housing

Last Tuesday, the City of San José reconsidered a partnership with one or more Joint Power Authorities (JPAs) to enable the issuance of bonds to purchase existing market rate properties that would be converted into deed restricted homes affordable to low and moderate income households. These partnerships are intended to leverage private investment in public ownership, with the city as a partner, but without direct expenditure of city funds. This new approach to creating “missing middle” has been a topic of discussion for the last three to four years in San Jose, and was last before the City Council last December. Several other jurisdictions in the greater Bay Area—including Mountain View, Walnut Creek,  and Santa Rosa— have adopted this new program model.

San Jose City Staff strongly recommended that these partnerships not be pursued at this time, citing significant concerns about the structure of the relationship and potential long-term liabilities to the city. Although there had been no direct negotiations between the possible partners and the City, staff’s assessment was that there were unlikely to be mutually acceptable terms within which the City would enter into these partnerships.

The council mostly supported staff’s recommendation, but didn’t rule out potential future opportunities that might address the concerns.  In alignment with a memorandum authored by Vice Mayor Jones and Councilmember Esparza, Council directed staff to work with the Bay Area Housing Finance Authority (BAHFA) to explore creation of a Bay Area Joint Powers Authority (JPA) to issue tax-exempt public purpose bonds and report progress at each housing Crisis Workplan update. BAHFA is a recently created regional entity sponsored by MTC to issue bonds for affordable housing, and may be in a better position to structure a relationship that city staff have more confidence in.  This process will likely take a number of years, but offers some hope that this new approach to creating affordable housing resources will be a tool in the future.

Since 2019 the City of San José has been working on the development of moderate income housing strategies as we have seen waves of residents leave the area due to the crushing cost of housing in the Silicon Valley. This type of program would better empower San José to create housing options for households making 80-120% of the Area Median Income, a housing development product category that is not eligible for typical affordable housing financing mechanisms. SV@Home joined in a letter supporting entering into a JPA quickly to respond to the needs and opportunities resulting from the COVID 19 pandemic. We need more tools in our housing toolbox to prevent displacement and provide community stability. We believe that partnership with a JPA is one such worthy tool. While we were discouraged, but not surprised by the staff’s recommendation of no action, we remain hopeful that the concept will be shown to be valuable in the future.