December 19, 2018

San Jose: Council Approves Two Interim Housing Communities


On Tuesday, the San Jose City Council reissued a declaration of a shelter emergency and approved plans to construct emergency “Bridge Housing Communities” on two publicly-owned sites. Bridge Housing Communities provide interim housing and supportive social services for unhoused individuals while they await the availability of permanent supportive housing. Each community will include 40 sleeping cabins, bathroom and shower facilities, and common space for meals and activities.  The program expects to serve over 150 people per year, with future residents drawn from the City’s Rapid Rehousing Program. One of the sites will be on VTA land near the new Berryessa BART station, which is slated for future development. The other will be located adjacent to Felipe Avenue at the intersection of State Highways 101 and 280 on a parcel owned by Caltrans.

The Council approved a contract with Habitat for Humanity East Bay Silicon Valley to construct the sleeping cabins. The communities will be managed by HomeFirst Services of Santa Clara County, which will also provide the supportive services.

The Council’s approval came after two and a half years of deliberation, often tumultuous community outreach, lengthy environmental review, and diligent staff planning work.  Originally envisioned as a swift, cost-wise, and humane response to the pressing challenges faced by unhoused residents, the process proved both technically and politically challenging.  As recently as last year, the Council and other interested people raised serious concerns about cost and location of the Bridge Communities. But earlier this week, the Council praised the Housing Department Staff  for bringing down costs and weathering community concerns to move these projects forward.

There was significant discussion during the council debate about the expectation that the two sites will serve as pilot efforts that can be easily reproduced in other parts of the city.  As the council moved to a vote, a consensus emerged that, while there was a clear expectation that future communities would move far more quickly through the planning and development process, the City maintained a commitment to an open process with opportunities for community input.

While SV@Home shares the concerns of many in the affordable housing community that the key to ending homelessness is permanent supportive housing, we know that interim solutions are needed. Hundreds of new permanent supportive homes are under construction and will be available for occupancy over the next several years. But in the meantime, we have people living in unsafe and unsanitary conditions on our streets and in other places not meant for human habitation. The Council’s action to move forward with these interim communities will provide hundreds of people with stable housing and needed support while permanent homes are being built and units become available.