Is San Jose’s progressive housing policy dead?
More than 100 residents rally in front of San Jose City Hall in support of COPA on March 27, 2023. Photo by Jana Kadah.

    A contentious affordable housing policy coming to the San Jose City Council appears to be dead on arrival.

    The Community Opportunity to Purchase Act, or COPA, is coming to the city council in late April, but it seems the long-debated policy will not have enough votes to pass. Councilmember Peter Ortiz tried and failed to defer the policy at a Wednesday committee meeting in an effort to prevent a no vote. The policy would give qualified nonprofits the ability to make the first offer on multi-family residential properties in San Jose to maintain affordable rents and curb displacement.

    Ortiz, a staunch COPA supporter, argued that shelving the policy indefinitely would provide councilmembers time to better study the proposal and understand the benefits of preserving existing housing as affordable.

    “Preservation efforts need to be furthered here,” Ortiz said. “There needs to be more work done by the city and its partners to find the most appropriate set of solutions to achieve that goal.”

    However, Councilmember Pam Foley said after dedicating thousands of dollars in resources to study the policy over a three-year period, it doesn’t seem like more work needs to be done. Councilmembers first studied COPA in 2020 and it faced several delays before coming back. Several cities have adopted similar policies, including Washington D.C. and San Francisco. Assemblymember Ash Kalra also introduced a state version of COPA in February.

    “All the (other councilmembers) are clearly up to speed on what the issue is,” Foley said. “This (memo) means staff is not spending any more time investigating it. I’ve investigated this issue for two and a half years from all angles. I personally feel very equipped to make a decision.”

    COPA needs six votes from the 11-member council to move forward. With representatives like Vice Mayor Rosemary Kamei and Councilmembers David Cohen and Sergio Jimenez shying away from the policy at the meeting, it seems the more progressive faction of the council would not have the votes to pass it. Mayor Matt Mahan and Councilmembers Foley, Dev Davis and Arjun Batra previously said they won’t support the policy.

    Kamei and Cohen said there’s a need for a preservation policy, but COPA doesn’t appear to be the right tool for San Jose at the moment.

    “The value of having the conversation on the 25th is for us to talk about how we look at the resources that have been earmarked for spending on COPA strategies, and direct staff at that time through the budget process on how we immediately begin using some of that money to begin to focus on anti-displacement or increase our anti-displacement efforts,” Cohen said.

    Jimenez said even if COPA fails before the full council, it doesn’t mean the idea is dead forever. Another councilmember could bring it back for consideration in the future.

    The city council will consider COPA on April 25. Learn how to watch and participate.

    Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.

    Comment Policy (updated 5/10/2023): Readers are required to log in through a social media or email platform to confirm authenticity. We reserve the right to delete comments or ban users who engage in personal attacks, hate speech, excess profanity or make verifiably false statements. Comments are moderated and approved by admin.

    Leave a Reply