San Jose-Google payment goes to affordable housing, rent relief
A lot on the proposed Google Downtown West site in San Jose. Photo by Lloyd Alaban.

    San Jose is investing $3 million from Google in various fixes for the city’s housing crisis, including pandemic-related rent relief.

    The City Council unanimously approved the allocation of funds on Tuesday, with $1.25 million going to tenant and landlord outreach on the eviction moratorium and rental relief programs, $1 million for affordable housing nonprofit organizations, $500,000 for an affordable housing preservation pilot program and $250,000 to study a potential land trust—a nonprofit that acquires and manages land and decides how it will be used.

    The $3 million payment is part of a $200 million community benefits agreement Google and San Jose signed when the city approved Downtown West, the tech giant’s planned campus near Diridon Station, which will be paid out over several years.

    Approximately $154 million will go to a community stabilization fund for preserving existing affordable housing in the area, increasing services for homeless residents and protections for low-income renters. There are also funds allocated toward college and post-secondary scholarships, programs and services related to adult and youth occupational training and small business support.

    Google agreed to pay $3 million to help with the city’s anti-displacement efforts and COVID-19 relief. The company submitted payment in June, one month after the City Council approved the Downtown West project.

    “In this case, we have to spend money quickly because this is really critical to get to a lot of folks in need,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo.

    Tenants are struggling to fight eviction and pay rent due to the pandemic. Gov. Gavin Newsom extended the state’s eviction moratorium until Sept. 30, and according to the housing department, 27,000 households in San Jose are behind on rent due to the economic effects of the pandemic. In response, the city launched an eviction help center to assist tenants, including a location in East San Jose.

    Some of Google’s first payment of $3 million will help with outreach efforts so that more residents can receive assistance quickly.

    Google’s 80-acre campus near Diridon Station will feature 7.3 million square feet of office space, 4,000 housing units, 15 acres of parks and a 30,000-50,000-square foot community center. It also boasts 500,000 square feet for retail, cultural, education and arts uses. A quarter of housing units in the area—approximately 1,000—will be affordable.

    That’s welcome news for local housing advocates who want to participate in the program.

    “We never agreed with the Google development. Now that the development is moving forward, we strongly support the allocation of these funds,” said Sandy Perry, board member with the South Bay Community Land Trust. “As we develop the land trust, our local organizations and emerging community groups already working on community land trust projects should be consulted to guide and implement projects related to the plan.”

    The city housing department estimates it will process approximately 200 additional affordable housing applications per week from the $3 million payment through the end of September.

    Google is expected to pay San Jose another $4.5 million by January. The council will convene either late this year or early next year to discuss how to distribute the funds.

    The city agreed to establish an advisory group to oversee the millions of dollars Google will pay over the next decade. But the agreement made no mention of the committee’s involvement beyond the $155 million community stabilization fund.

    Convening the 13-member advisory group, five of whom must have personal experience with displacement, will be a two- to three-year process according to the city—keeping pace with the completion of the first office building for Downtown West.

    City officials have not yet set a date for selecting nonprofits to participate in the affordable housing programs, though the selection is set to go through one of the council’s committees. Officials will also come back with statistics on who and how many residents will be helped by the funding.

    “We have leaned on a lot of nonprofits—particularly small, geographic-based nonprofits—to reach our hardest-to-reach communities. They have been stretched incredibly thin during this pandemic,” said Councilmember Maya Esparza. “This is an important investment in the organizations that we need. It’s an acknowledgment that we need them.”

    Contact Lloyd Alaban at [email protected] or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter.

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