San Jose hosts public events before finalizing anti-displacement strategy
Kevin Zwick, CEO of the Housing Trust Silicon Valley, writes down resident comments at an anti-displacement community meeting Jan. 24. Photo by Janice Bitters.

San Jose officials are working on new strategies to stop displacement in the Bay Area’s largest city, this month releasing a new anti-displacement report as officials host community meetings to drum up feedback and ideas to keep people from being pushed out.

The 80-page report, Ending Displacement in San Jose, was released Jan. 15 and created by a group of nonprofit agencies, planning advocates and city officials known as the San Jose Anti-Displacement Policy Network Team. It outlines how displacement has affected residents in the city and offers a list of potential options to help residents stay in their homes as San Jose grows.

“Our focus is on the displacement of extremely low, very low and low-income households that are at zero to 80% (area median income) who had the fewest assets to cope with rising rents, having to move and change with market forces in San Jose,” said Jacklyn Joanino, a development officer on the city’s housing policy team. “That is 41% of our entire population of households.”

San Jose isn’t alone in battling displacement as jobs increase exponentially faster than the number of homes rising in the region. But city officials are hosting community meetings around the city to gather ideas and help prioritize the solutions in the report from local residents, advocates and business owners to devise a hyperlocal strategy.

The next two anti-displacement community meetings will be held 10 a.m. to noon Jan. 28 at the MLK Library, 150 E. San Fernando St. and 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and Feb. 5 in the Mexican Heritage Plaza, 1700 Alum Rock Ave. The meetings are open to all.

Robert Aguirre, who was formerly unhoused, hopes people most affected will show up.

“We need to include the people that are directly affected to be a part of this,” he said following a recent anti-displacement meeting. “It’s very difficult to do because when you are talking about people who are at risk of losing their homes, that is their concern, their concern is not coming here and talking about something in the future.”

San Jose officials said they’re taking feedback from the community meetings to prepare a final anti-displacement strategy, which will be presented to city councilmembers in April. 

In the meantime, community members can weigh in on 22 draft ideas to slow or halt displacement in the city, each focusing on one of three principals the city prioritized when it comes to housing: protection, preservation and production of homes.

Although San Jose has made strides in protecting renters and producing new homes, it has only recently begun seriously focusing on preservation, said Kristen Clements, division manager in the city’s Housing Department.

“Preservation is super important because of the affordable housing that’s restricted that we have created, we really don’t want to see that lose affordability,” she said. “Everybody is saying that you have to fire on all three of these engines in order to make progress.”

Protection

The ideas up for debate under the “protection” category are focused on protecting existing affordable homes, but also residents. The solutions include things like starting new educational programs to help residents know their rights and creating a “right to legal counsel” policy for tenants.

Officials are also discussing ways to incentivize landlords to make certain decisions about their properties, including keeping existing older homes — which tend to be more affordable than newly-built homes — well maintained so the units don’t need to be demolished.

Preservation

When it comes to preservation, San Jose’s potential solutions focus on keeping in place homes that are considered “naturally occurring affordable housing,” generally older units that come with fewer amenities, and as a result, lease for less than newer apartments.

City officials are considering a study of how tenant co-ops and community land trusts could help preserve such units, including through implementing a noticing requirement for when existing affordable homes go up for sale, offering those kinds of organizations a chance to purchase the property before other investors that might redevelop or make major improvements to raise rents.

Production

Building new affordable housing is one of the most talked about solutions to the housing crisis, but is also the most difficult option because new homes take not only major funding, but neighborhood buy-in to rise.

San Jose officials are set to present a study in the coming months of a potential new commercial linkage fee that would drum up new affordable-housing funds whenever a new office or retail building is built in the city. City leaders are also looking at publicly-owned land that could become sites for affordable housing, though Clements said San Jose as a city doesn’t own much land that could become future housing sites.

“I know the city does not own a lot of land appropriate for housing or else we would have already pursued that years ago,” she said. “But other agencies might; the governor has a policy directive on this and the VTA owns land and they are doing station area developments.”

To learn more about the options being considered by city leaders, attend one of the upcoming meetings on Jan. 28 or Feb. 4, or read the Ending Displacement in San Jose report.

Contact Janice Bitters at janice@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @JaniceBitters on Twitter.

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