New affordable homes at the Berryessa BART station
June 29, 2023

San Jose Spotlight: Affordable housing to be built by San Jose transit center


Mathew Reed, Director of Policy at SV@Home, said this development is a step in the right direction. “Collectively, commitments like this are going to be how we make a difference to address and solve the affordability crisis that we’re facing. This is a really important part of the future.” One of the most challenging issues affordable housing developers face is acquiring land, in competition with market-rate housing developers who have more access to capital. Surplus public land gives affordable housing developers priority access and help reduce costs. This development is part of VTA’s holistic approach to envisioning mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhoods that will take full advantage of public transit and existing community resources, with attention to the challenges of displacement related to redevelopment.

By Annalise Freimarck | June 29, 2023 | Photo by Annalise Freimarck

VTA is beginning work on a new housing development to boost the Santa Clara County transit agency’s revenue. This time it will be 100% affordable housing.

Vacant lot beside Berryessa BART station will hold affordable housing
Empty lot next to the Berryessa Transit Center, site of 195 affordable apartments. Photo: Annalise Freimarck.

The agency will use an empty lot next to the Berryessa Transit Center in San Jose to build 195 affordable apartments after signing a contract with Affirmed Housing Group last week. Housing will be available for residents making 60% or less than the county’s median income, with half reserved for those making 50% or less. For a family of four in Santa Clara County, the median income is $168,500.

Each resident will have access to bikes and scooters, and will be given a BART and VTA pass to encourage ridership, according to Rob Wilkins, Northern California vice president of Affirmed Housing Group.

Part of the first floor will be designed as a child care facility, while 46 apartments will provide supportive services for residents who have experienced homelessness.

Affirmed Housing Group is expected to break ground in 2025, with apartments ready for move-in by the end of 2026.

Ron Golem, VTA director of real estate and transit-oriented development, said the agency is “taking it one step at a time” to address San Jose’s housing crisis.

“(It) is going to take many more buildings than this one project, but this is how we go about doing it,” he told San José Spotlight.

The development is part of a deal VTA made with Santa Clara County in 2020 to use Measure A funding to build four developments solely for affordable housing. Living in the county has become more unaffordable, putting the onus on San Jose and other local governments to grant more funding toward affordable housing.

VTA’s board recently increased the transit agency’s affordable housing policy by 5% to make 40% of the housing it builds near transit stations affordable. It also increased affordable housing by 5% to 25% for market-rate construction.

Agency officials are hopeful this development will increase ridership and revenues, which dropped during the pandemic. In 2021, the agency predicted its expenses will exceed revenues by $47.5 million by 2031.

Golem said because of public transportation’s high operating costs, any increase in ridership will boost funds to keep BART in service.

“Most of that money actually helps to cover the cost and so it’s very helpful if we get more riders on the BART extension,” he told San José Spotlight.

The project will cost $11 million, about $57,000 per apartment, Golem said.

A rendering of  VTA’s 100% affordable housing development next to the Berryessa Transit Center in San Jose. Image: Affirmed Housing Group.

VTA expects to build 2,600 affordable homes in the county over the next 20 years, Golem said. The transit agency currently owns 29 development sites, one of which the San Jose City Council approved for hundreds of residences last year.

Mathew Reed, director of policy at SV@Home, said this development is a step in the right direction.

“Is one set of developments going to turn the corner on the housing needs that we have in the city? No,” he told San José Spotlight. “But collectively, commitments like this are going to be how we make a difference to address and solve the affordability crisis that we’re facing.”

Ray Bramson, chief operating officer of nonprofit Destination: Home and San José Spotlight columnist, commended VTA for helping create a multi-use development.

“Not only are you providing permanent homes for people to live in, but you can also provide spaces for nonprofit organizations to work, you can create child care centers, you can create new community amenities,” he told San José Spotlight.

Reed said discussions about the nearby Berryessa Flea Market’s closure has created bumps in the planning process, but he’s excited the development is moving forward.

“This is a really important part of the future,” he said.