Housing development
October 7, 2021

Policy Rundown – October 7, 2021


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

Santa Clara County Announces “Headed Home” Campaign to End Family Homelessness by 2025

On Monday, the Santa Clara County Continuum of Care coalition, led by Destination: Home, announced the “Headed Home” campaign, which sets the ambitious but achievable goal of ending family homelessness in Santa Clara County by 2025.

A specific initiative under the broader Community Plan to End Homelessness, Headed Home aims to house 1,200 families in the next year and then 600 families a year annually. The goal is to achieve functional zero family homelessness in five years.

The program is being presented as a unique opportunity to focus resources in a way that should allow the County to provide long term assistance to every unhoused family County-wide, and to augment existing homeless prevention systems to ensure that resources are available as additional families are in need of support.  Many of these families are headed by single-parent moms struggling to stay afloat, even as many hold down full time jobs without stable homes. 

Check out the Santa Clara County Housing Authority’s Factsheet for more details, including the four key strategies they will be pursuing: 1) Leveraging Emergency Housing Vouchers; 2) Expanding Rapid Rehousing; 3) Expanding Homelessness Prevention Strategies; and 4) Creating More New Affordable and Supportive Housing.

SV@Home is looking forward to continuing to partner with Destination: Home and our colleagues at the Santa Clara County Continuum of Care coalition to help achieve these goals and end homelessness in our community. More from leaders from the City of San José and the County, and our friends at Destination: Home in the great local press coverage here.

San José Takes on potential Right to Counsel program

Last Tuesday, the San Jose City Council voted 10-0 to direct the Housing Department to create a workplan to establish a tenant right to counsel program for the city. Tenant right to counsel programs provide public funding to represent tenants facing eviction proceedings. In the vast majority of eviction cases tenants do not have legal representation, and often struggle to represent and enjoy their full legal rights. Extending a publicly supported right to counsel has been shown in jurisdictions around the country to reduce unnecessary evictions, and prevent many of the human costs of displacement including disruptions to work and education, longer commutes, higher rental burden, and significant strains on emotional and mental health. These programs have been shown to be incredibly cost effective in lowering the social service and homeless response costs that stem from the disruption of an eviction. The City of San José has long considered a right to counsel program as a potentially impactful anti-displacement strategy, but this is the first time that council has provided formal direction to move forward with its development. 

The Council’s action came during a discussion of the expiration of the State Eviction Moratorium (see discussion of the moratorium and emergency rental assistance above), and was directly connected to an assessment of the city’s efforts to avoid a wave of evictions as the moratorium expires and the emergency rental assistance continues to be available. However, as Councilmember Cohen outlined in his memo, the program will take some time to develop and should be considered a part of the city’s long term response to the crises of housing instability and displacement. 

Councilmember Cohen had originally included the item for study during the budget process earlier in the year, and Councilmembers Peralez and Arenas initially recommended last week’s action. SV@Home joined a letter in support with a small coalition of partners that have been advocating for this action for a number of years.

Housing development

Palo Alto Moves Forward on Affordable Housing Proposal and Project Homekey Initiative

Last Monday evening, Palo Alto’s City Council praised Eden Housing’s 50-unit Mitchell Park project for creating homes for in-need members of our community. The Council and a number of community advocates highlighted the developer’s proactive engagement and incorporation of community feedback into the process and proposed design. While the discussion was a Study Session and no Council action was taken, the positive conversation reflected widespread support for the project. 

SV@Home is a strong supporter of the mixed-use project which will bring 50-units of affordable housing, 25 of which will be available for residents with intellectual development disabilities (I/DD), and 2,700 square feet of office space. The office space will be occupied by the current tenant, AbilityPath, to continue to serve the I/DD residents who rely on its services. We think this project is a win for current and future residents!

That same night, the Council also advanced a staff-initiated proposal to consider a Project Homekey-funded interim housing development at the former Los Altos Treatment Plant site. This was the culmination of weeks of complicated, hard work by city staff and the city’s partner LifeMoves to explore the possibility of providing interim homes for people and families experiencing homelessness. The latest proposed plan includes 88 units, which would consist of 64 single units and 24 family units, for a total of 136 beds. SV@Home is a strong supporter of Palo Alto’s Homekey application, alongside all of the applications put forward by Santa Clara County jurisdictions (more below). We wish the city the best of luck in securing financing for this much needed proposal!

San José Moves supports Project Homekey Applications, Nine Total Proposals Across the County

On Tuesday, the City of San José unanimously supported an application for five State Project Homekey grants. The Project Homekey program, which began as an extension of the emergency response to the need for stable options for people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic, is entering a new funding round with an expanded commitment of state and federal recovery resources to fund permanent supportive housing and interim housing.  

The City’s actions were coordinated with a broader County effort to get state support for Homekey projects in four cities County-wide. Together, the nine proposed projects could provide 800 additional interim and permanent housing opportunities in the next nine months. We were proud to be a part of a coalition led by Destination: Home to advocate for more interim and supportive housing. Meanwhile, in a related action, the County Board of Supervisors voted to acquire the Crestview Hotel in Mountain View for redevelopment as permanent supportive housing, one of the nine proposals described at the above link. 

Gamel Way in Mountain View
Gamel Way in Mountain View

Mountain View Addresses Displacement with novel approach to Gamel Way

Last week, the City of Mountain View unanimously approved the redevelopment of Gamel Way, making an important statement about how projects that will displace existing residents can move forward while contributing to the solution. The approved project will demolish 29 rent-controlled units and replace them with 121 ownership units, an increase in density at the site. However, the important piece is that the new development replaces the 29 rent-controlled units with 29 deed-restricted for sale homes, a one for one replacement. 

Recognizing that the ownership units may not work for all of the current residents, the approved deal also extends an alternative right to receive a 42-month rental subsidy plus $5,000 in relocation payments, with the subsidy being the difference between a tenant’s current monthly rent and the comparable market rent. These benefits, which are substantial and provide support that may allow the displaced families to stay in Mountain View, are aligned with replacement and relocation requirements under state law SB-330. Current tenants will be allowed to occupy their current rental unit until six months prior to construction and if they choose to return to an ownership unit, they will be provided an interim unit during construction.

While the City has faced criticism over the last several years for approving demolitions of naturally occurring affordable and rent-controlled housing, the Gamel Way project charts a new approach to helping current residents stay in Mountain View. While there are some challenges associated with for-sale affordable homes, including related to down payments, credit scoring, and the potential of future increases in HOA fees, the Council directed staff to leverage additional resources to compensate. 

With unanimous approval of the project, the Mountain View Council made an important statement about how redevelopment can move forward while acknowledging that the crisis of housing insecurity, rent burden, and displacement requires tools that increase density, provide for 1-to-1 replacement of the more affordable homes that are lost, protect tenants by providing a first right of return and strong relocation assistance options. SV@Home is hopeful that these lessons and standards will inform the upcoming council housing initiatives — R3 District Zoning Update and Housing Displacement Response Strategies — which together will provide an opportunity to integrate formal standards into city policy.

Map of Milpitas sites

Milpitas Considers Using Public Land for Affordable Housing

Last Tuesday, the Milpitas City Council hosted a special session to consider the development or disposition of three parcels on South Main Street owned by the Milpitas Housing Authority and the City of Milpitas. All three parcels were transferred to the Housing Authority after the dissolution of the Milpitas Redevelopment Agency and constitute a total of 2.71 acres, which could allow for 190 to 250 new homes. 

During the special session, staff outlined alternatives for accommodating housing on the sites. Due to their public ownership, all of the parcels are required to either be prioritized for affordable housing development or have the proceeds from their sale be used to fund affordable housing elsewhere in the city. The north parcel is subject to RDA law and the City must initiate a development or dispose of the land by August 31, 2022. The other two parcels are subject to the Surplus Land Act (SLA) where the City must prioritize affordable housing on these site and negotiate in good faith prior to entertaining non-affordable housing alternatives. While the Council clearly favored building a mix of ownership and rental affordable housing on the sites, they split on some of the details, including whether the parcels should be sold or leased, as well as whether they should be combined into one large property or not.

SV@Home commends the City’s proactive community engagement and willingness to prioritize public lands for affordable housing. We are a strong supporter of prioritizing affordable housing across the site, in line with state law and believe that the best path forward is for the City to lease land in two offering groups to best enable affordable housing developers to leverage funding and affordable housing programs to bring deed-restricted affordable homes to the City.

Staff are expected to release the Request for Proposals (RFP) in December, with final recommendations expected in May 2022.