This Fall, the San Jose City Council will be considering a number of important issues that impact the 3Ps of effective housing policy: the production of new affordable housing, the preservation of existing affordable housing, and the protection of our most vulnerable community members. These issues range from ending discrimination against low-income renters to raising money to finance affordable housing developments, to reducing barriers to the construction of new affordable homes.

SV@Home is bringing together community members in coalition to advocate for solutions that lead to more housing development, ensure that affordable housing is a priority, and alleviate pressures that are leading to gentrification and displacement.

We need you to get involved: learn about why these issues are important, tell your friends and family, and take action as part of the San Jose coalition of housers!

To learn why these issues are important and to get involved, check out the calendar of upcoming San Jose housing items below, which includes details on SV@Home’s position and how you can get engaged. As more information becomes available, we will update you through our Action Alerts and our social media accounts:

August 13th

Source of Income Discrimination: The City Council will discuss prohibiting discrimination against households with rental assistance vouchers, which will remove barriers faced by lower-income households who have housing vouchers in hand but are still struggling to find available housing. SV@Home strongly supports passage of this policy. All persons with the ability to pay for housing should be treated equally when applying to rent an apartment or home, regardless of whether they receive a housing subsidy or housing assistance of any kind.

 Add it to your Calendar: August 13th at the San Jose City Council

September 16th

Anti-Displacement Study Session: The Housing Department will provide the City Council with an update on its work to develop strategies to prevent displacement of lower-income households in San Jose.  High housing costs, driven by job growth that increases competition for limited housing resources, are increasingly straining budgets and pushing households out of their apartments and out of the City. The impact of this displacement on children and families, workers, and communities marks our housing emergency.  Staff will discuss how the current tool kit of affordable housing and tenant protection measures are helping but fall short.  New proposals, including the Tenant Preference Program, which would give households at risk of displacement from gentrification priority access to affordable housing opportunities, will be discussed along with other strategies to stem the tide of displacement.  While specific anti-displacement policy proposals are not expected to come forward until next year, this study session provides a critical opportunity for council to understand both the importance of existing programs and the gaps that need to be filled to better protect households at risk.

September 24th and November 5th – Housing Days

On September 24th and November 5th, the City will take action on a number of important housing issues, many of which are interconnected. SV@Home believes that the package of related items provides an opportunity for serious thinking: What can we do now to respond to challenges we face, and If we need to make compromises or adjustments, how are we going to compensate to stay on track to meet affordable housing needs in the future? Included on the agenda those days are a number of important issues:

September 24th

Housing Crisis Workplan Update – More details on the update to be announced soon. In the meantime, you can read the last update from March 2019 here.

Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Amnesty Program –  When the Council passed reforms to the City’s ADU ordinance last year, city staff was directed to develop a program that would allow homeowners with existing accessory units, including converted garages, to learn how to bring their units into compliance with building codes and legally registered with the city.  Many expect that there may be thousands of these unpermitted rental homes in San Jose, and bringing them out of the shadows and up to code serves the interests of both the tenants and the City.  But to serve the broader intent of expanding the city’s housing stock, the amnesty program will need to balance the opportunities to bring existing units into conformity with the need to preserve existing housing opportunities and affordability.

Downtown High Rise Incentive – Extension of affordable housing exemption: Council will be considering an extension of the exemption for Downtown residential buildings from affordable housing fees and inclusionary housing requirements.  The exemption was originally put in place in 2015, and was extended to the Inclusionary Housing Ordinance when the program was implemented for rental housing in 2018.  High rise housing is more expensive to build than lower-density multifamily homes, and the interest in getting more housing built downtown led to the exemption.  As a result, the city has now built thousands of new apartments downtown without integrating affordable units or collecting fees to balance the impact of luxury development.  Decisions about the continued exemption need to be grounded in clear data on the impact that compliance with affordable housing requirements will have on projects moving forward.  This discussion must also account for the different types of residential development that may have different income potentials.  We need more housing, but we can’t afford to build a downtown where only rich people can live.

November 5th

Cost of Development Study Session: Market Rate and Affordable – The Council will hold a broad Cost of Development Study Session for both market rate and affordable development. With recent increases in land, materials, and labor costs, developers are facing significant challenges in getting their projects to pencil given the rents they can now achieve in today’s market. We know that taxes and impact fees are also a cost factor, and while we understand that inclusionary Housing requirements are included in this bucket of costs, they are a critical component of the City’s affordable housing toolkit.  The Council will consider these two items as well (see below).

SV@Home believes that the Council should take a closer look at all costs related to development to see where adjustments can be made to reduce development costs. In no case should affordable housing be disproportionately impacted by any decisions to cut costs or requirements. We urge the council to consider actions that streamline the development process, allow residential development in more places, and allow development to move forward now without requirements for other development—commercial and retail space—to begin first. Other changes, including the timing of payment of fees should be considered. We also will urge the council to make it easier to build more affordable housing through by-right approval processes, waiving or lowering fees for affordable projects, and making more surplus and underutilized land available for affordable housing development. Prior to the meeting on the 24th, SV@Home will have a complete set of recommendations to reduce development costs while preserving affordable housing tools.

Development Fee Framework: In a follow-up to the Cost of Development study session, and as a run up to the later discussion on possible reforms to the Inclusionary Housing Ordinance for affordable housing, council is expected to discuss ways of streamline the existing framework for development fees. While the focus of these discussions will likely be on making the process of calculating and paying fees more transparent and efficient, this is also an opportunity to look at ways that fee waivers and reductions can be used to support affordable housing development specifically.  Consolidating fees is a good idea that could spur development by increasing certainty, saving time and money.

Inclusionary Housing Framework – IHO policy reforms: The study sessions and broader fee discussions earlier in the day will come to a head as council considers major reforms to the Inclusionary Housing Ordinance (IHO)– a central component of how we build and fund affordable housing in the city.  We expect proposals to overhaul the existing program to provide greater flexibility for developers, and create additional incentives to integrate affordable units into the new developments rather than pay fees.  We also expect a difficult discussion about proposals to suspend or reduce the IHO in light of the current cost challenges facing market rate development. While we recognize that high cost of residential development is a major problem in San Jose, and if there is no construction there are no integrated affordable homes of fees for affordable development, we also know that new luxury market rate development will not address our lack of affordable housing as intended by the IHO. Council will need to find the right balance that optimizes the resources for affordable development, and looks at other cost savings that could offset the need to reduce the benefits of the IHO.  This will be a difficult discussion.

SV@Home will be putting together a coalition of local organizations to make sure that affordable housing resources are maximized through these reforms.

Ellis Act :  The Ellis Act is the part of the relatively new Tenant Protection Ordinance that creates the framework for what to do when property owners choose to redevelop apartments that are currently rent stabilized.  After concerns were raised by some City Council members about the ordinance’s potential to unreasonably deter high-density, in-fill redevelopment, staff was directed to bring back potential reforms. The staff proposals under discussion are likely to propose a range of options that either incentivize development of affordable inclusionary units on-site, provide displaced households with a right to return at close to the original rents, or require much higher residential density with traditional inclusionary requirements.   In return, property owners will be given more flexibility in how many of the new units will continue to have restrictions on allowable rent increases. SV@Home supports restrictions on rent increases as an important tool to protect tenants and preserve naturally affordable housing. We support strong Ellis Act policies that maximize the number of units affordable to low- and moderate-income households to enable families of all incomes to remain in our communities.  When redevelopment happens, we believe the City should have a goal of replacing rent-stabilized units with income-restricted units, ideally on a one-for-one basis.

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