September 14, 2018

County Supervisors Commit $40 Million to House the Developmentally Disabled


On September 11th, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to find $40 million in funding for affordable housing for extremely low and very low-income individuals with developmental disabilities. The housing program will be coordinated with service providers for the developmentally disabled community and administered by the Office of Supportive Housing along with the County’s other affordable housing programs.

Initially, the hundreds of people in the room had expected a contentious debate about what appeared to be an effort to set aside a portion of Measure A funding for the disabled community. Measure A was passed in 2016 by Santa Clara County voters and has initially focused on creating permanent, supportive housing for current or recently homeless people.

Before public comment began, however, the effort’s sponsor, Supervisor Simitian, explained that his efforts had been misunderstood, and he had no intention of pitting vulnerable populations against each other.  Much to everyone’s pleasure, he proposed a solution that directs staff to find the $40 million from other sources in the County budget without encroaching on Measure A funds.

The challenge of providing affordable housing for the developmentally disabled has been particularly vexing in recent years.  Currently, as many as two-thirds of the more than 10,000 developmentally disabled individuals in Santa Clara County live at home with aging family members.  With very limited personal incomes, the death of a parent could leave them with no place to live.

For the extremely and very-low income members of this group, the threat of homelessness is all too real.  In the past, affordable housing for people with disabilities was successfully built around the County.  However, funding sources for affordable housing have disappeared (like Redevelopment funding) or have not been flexible enough to respond to the population’s unique needs, such as County Measure A funds.

We applaud the Board of  Supervisors for its action, which is a win-win for affordable housing  in Santa Clara County.  The action addresses the concerns of both the advocates for supportive housing for the homeless and the housing advocates for the developmental disabilities community, while significantly expanding the pool of resources for affordable housing.