San Jose awarded $31.5M for ‘transit-oriented’ housing
An aerial view of downtown San Jose is pictured in this file photo.

    A California committee has awarded San Jose $31.5 million to build 155 new affordable apartments downtown and improve public transportation and infrastructure.

    According to the announcement Thursday, the housing must be “transit oriented,” putting hundreds of residents near public transit, which city planners say will cut down on traffic and vehicles in downtown.

    The California Strategic Growth Council, which awarded the grants to San Jose, aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and vehicles on California roads. The group has reduced 2.5 million tons of carbon emissions, which is equivalent to having fewer than 531,000 cars on the road, according to its website.

    City officials plan to fund two nonprofits to each develop two separate sites for the 155 new affordable units, said Jeff Scott, a spokesman for the city housing department.

    Satellite Affordable Housing Associates will develop 86 affordable units at the Market-Almaden community near Children’s Discovery Museum, and First Community Housing will develop 69 affordable units in the Roosevelt Park community, which is west of Highway 101.

    Scott also noted that the nonprofits will be using other funds besides those from the city.

    The projects will take about $21.5 million dollars of the funds, while the rest will be used to improve local transportation and infrastructure. The Valley Transportation Authority plans to use $4 million to buy new electric buses, and the city intends to build protected bikeways, improve crosswalks and plant more trees in urban areas.

    “We are excited that this award brings much-needed construction of homes that benefit both our community and our residents in San Jose,” said Housing Director Jacky Morales-Ferrand in an email. “These new affordable homes will be within walking and biking distance of public transit, making it convenient and affordable for residents to move around the city without having to drive.”

    Some advocates question the city’s spending plans when it comes to improving Silicon Valley’s transit system.

    “If I was deciding how the funds would be spent, I would spend it on operations.” said Monica Mallon, who serves on the leadership team of the Silicon Valley Transit Users Advocacy Group. “They currently haven’t been hiring new drivers. That’s an issue that I think should be solved before the bus issue.”

    But there could be several roadblocks as city planners move forward with the proposed projects.

    For example, VTA has failed to reach an agreement with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 265, the South Bay chapter of the union representing VTA bus drivers. Some transportation advocates say a strike could be near, and if an agreement is not reached, VTA will have trouble hiring new drivers.

    “If you don’t have the drivers to drive the buses how would that help?” Mallon said.

    So far the housing projects are in the beginning stages, Scott said.

    The project will be a joint venture between VTA and the city’s housing and transportation departments, he added.

    The new units are supposed to be placed near grocery stores, jobs and health care facilities.

    Despite the plans to increase affordable housing with this newly-secured funding, some critics say San Jose needs to address more immediate needs of the area’s homeless population.

    “From the time they do the ceremonial groundbreaking to grand opening is usually two years,” said Shaunn Cartwright, an advocate for the homeless. “We’re at least two years out from that. How many people are going to die before then?”

    However, this is not the only affordable housing project in the works by city planners. Scott said that bridge housing off Mabury Road is expected to open this fall, which will have 40 cabins available for unhoused individuals, according to city records.

    Contact San José Spotlight intern Mauricio La Plante at [email protected] or follow @mslaplantenews on Twitter.





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