Crescent Square commercial space sign with local Walgreens in background
One of the sites considered for new housing in Milpitas is near the intersection of Dixon Landing Road and Milpitas Boulevard, which includes the Crescent Square shopping center. Photo by B. Sakura Cannestra.

Milpitas needs to build thousands of homes in the next eight years and is eyeing old retail spaces and offices to reach its goal.

The Milpitas City Council is giving input tonight on proposed zoning changes to streamline redevelopment of five identified commercial sites, referred to as Housing Opportunity Districts, which would provide more land for future housing. The state is requiring the city to add 6,713 homes to its housing stock by 2031, with half being below market rate. The city has until July to finalize the zoning changes.

City Manager Ned Thomas said the identified sites are privately owned and it’s the owners’ choice to redevelop the land. But he added the city has heard some property owners want to redevelop soon, and this could provide more flexibility for future development.

“These are older commercial centers that, you know, at some point in the next 30 years may want to redevelop,” Thomas told San José Spotlight. “Through the General Plan process (of) gathering information from the public, one of the ideas that came out of that process was … making it possible to have some housing units in a mixed-use format.”

Milpitas has roughly 81,000 residents and projects its population to hit 113,000 by 2040. There are 25,183 homes in the city, though a housing needs assessment from last year shows fewer than half are considered affordable—meaning it costs less than 30% of the household’s monthly income. The median income for a four-person household in Santa Clara County is $168,500.

Sandy Perry, president of the Affordable Housing Network of Santa Clara County, said adjusting zoning regulations to facilitate future housing is not enough to address immediate affordable housing needs.

“Milpitas, like the rest of Silicon Valley, has a desperate shortage of affordable housing and the city council needs to show more commitment to addressing that,” Perry told San José Spotlight. “These zoning changes might help a little, but the city has proven it’s way behind on affordable housing production.”

Perry said Milpitas has not historically preserved existing affordable housing and has not provided tenant protections from evictions, which can also exacerbate housing inequities.

The Association of Bay Area Governments decides how many homes each county and city is responsible for building, in accordance with state housing requirements. Last cycle, the association tasked Milpitas with building 1,574 low- or very low-income homes by 2022, but the city only completed 263. The city’s new allocation is to construct 2,655 low- or very low-income homes.

Planning Director Jay Lee said most of the city’s existing affordable housing stock is near the Milpitas BART station and Transit Center, so this serves as an opportunity for affordable housing to be developed in other parts of the city.

Councilmember Hon Lien told San José Spotlight the proposed zoning changes are an important step in producing more affordable housing to meet these goals. Lien agreed the city has fallen short of past goals, but noted that affordable housing production has increased since 2019. Since then, the city has enacted rules requiring builders to provide affordable housing in any development of 10 or more residences.

“I encourage developers to come and build, and of course pay attention and follow all the policy on the housing plans and housing elements,” Lien told San José Spotlight. “We want to make sure that we support the developers and we are being development-friendly so they come in and build and be a part of the growth in our city.”

Contact B. Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] or @SakuCannestra on X, formerly known as Twitter. 

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