Residents support COPA at San Jose City Council
March 19, 2023

Will San Jose greenlight new affordable housing policy?


As part of our work to preserve existing affordable housing and build community control of housing ownership, SV@Home is a member of the San Jose COPA Coalition. COPA is a valuable tool that would help people stay in their homes and increase the city’s supply of affordable housing. SV@Home will host a discussion about COPA on March 30.

By Sonya Herrera | March 19, 2023 | Photo by Jana Kadah

An affordable housing proposal that would enable community groups to buy multi-family homes could finally make it back to the San Jose City Council next month.

The Community Opportunity to Purchase Act, or COPA, would give qualified nonprofits the ability to make the first offer on multi-family residential properties in San Jose. These nonprofits would then be able to rent at affordable rates to help renters keep their homes.

COPA could come before councilmembers on April 25 if the Community and Economic Development committee recommends the proposal on March 27, according to a presentation by the city on Thursday.

“This has been a long journey,” said Alex Shoor, executive director of community advocacy group Catalyze SV, speaking for himself and not for his organization. “COPA has been delayed a number of times.”

The city council first studied COPA in 2020. Several cities have adopted similar policies, including San Francisco and Washington D.C. Assemblymember Ash Kalra also introduced a state version of COPA last month.

Proponents of the policy said COPA is a valuable tool that would help people stay in their homes and increase the city’s supply of affordable housing, while opponents said the policy would give too much power to nonprofits and affect a property owner’s ability to market their home.

Delma Hernandez, co-director of the South Bay Community Land Trust, said COPA will help San Jose lower the rate of renter displacement and evictions.

“This is about our community being able to stay housed,” Hernandez told San José Spotlight. “When our communities are able to stay in San Jose, in their homes, that in itself is an asset for everyone.”

But Roberta Moore, a local real estate broker and associate, said COPA would merely advance the interests of nonprofits.

“This is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and renters should be very wary about supporting it,” Moore told San José Spotlight. “This does not help the renters, this just shifts power to (nonprofit organizations).”

Shoor, who chairs the Housing and Community Development Commission, said the city has responded to feedback from realtors and property owners who worry about how the policy would affect their ability to sell their homes. COPA only applies to properties with two or more homes built at least 15 years ago.

He added that building affordable housing is often costly, and that preserving affordable homes through a policy like COPA is a reasonable complement to new construction.

A policy as controversial and complex as COPA requires consensus, and the city has worked hard to achieve that, Shoor said.

“I can understand their fear about how this will impact the market and their ability to do their jobs,” Shoor told San José Spotlight. “At the end of the day, there are still folks that are going to be fearful of it, and folks who will oppose it.”

The city’s Community and Economic Development committee is expected to consider COPA on March 27. Local housing advocacy group SV@Home will also host a discussion about COPA on March 30.