February 29, 2024

San Jose City Council approves a new emergency interim shelter site at VTA’s Cerone property and adds two additional sites to the city budget


Photo courtesy of Jana Kadah, San Jose Spotlight

On April 6th, the San Jose City Council approved the finalization of a ground lease and development of a new emergency interim shelter site on VTA land in northeast San Jose (D4).  The Cerone site is planned for 200 new units with construction costs partially offset by earlier commitments from Governor Newsom.  With the addition of just under 250 additional shelter units at Cherry Avenue (D9) and Via Del Oro (D10), the city now has over 1,741 units of interim shelter, hotel/motel conversions, and safe parking.

Construction costs for the Cerone site, including a five-year land lease, are just under $200 thousand per unit.  The biggest challenge facing the city, however, is the ongoing operating and service costs.  As the first 759 new interim units have come online over the last four years, the city has dedicated increasing percentages of funds, previously reserved for affordable housing production, and has still been required to commit $38 million out of the general fund for operations.  As the additional shelter units move from approval to construction and then to occupancy, the general fund obligation is expected to increase to $70 million per year.  

Interim housing is a critical part of the continuum of response outlined in the Community Plan to End Homelessness supported by the city.  Establishing a sustainable balance of emergency prevention, interim shelter, and permanent affordable housing continues to be a challenge.  The budget season in San Jose will kick off with an initial outline of the Mayor’s priorities next month and run through adoption in June.  Last year, the City Council directed staff to maintain the commitment to both emergency shelter investments and actual housing production by developing strategies to address the massive unfunded operating costs from other sources.  

Over the coming months, SV@Home will be calling on the housing community to support our shared commitment to balancing our response. We need permanent homes to transition people out of the interim sites, and we have tens of thousands of households throughout the city in dire need of housing they can afford.  Increasing housing stability is the most effective way to stem the tide of people becoming unhoused. We are going to need to come together to continue to make this case, even as we continue to support efforts to bring people off the street.