San Jose mayor eyes second chance for affordable housing measure
Downtown San Jose is pictured in this file photo.

    Less than four months after a $450 million affordable housing bond measure failed at the hands of San Jose voters, Mayor Sam Liccardo is exploring his options for 2020.

    At the Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s Regional Economic Forum on Friday, Liccardo alluded that he’s in the process of building a coalition to go back to the ballot for another affordable housing bond measure.

    In November, about 64 percent voted yes on the $450 million bond dubbed Measure V – the initiative needed about 67 percent of the vote to pass.

    Garrick Percival, a political science professor at San Jose State University, said it isn’t unusual to see a measure revived, especially when it lost by a small margin. He added that the measure may also have a better chance to pass in a presidential election year.

    “You could probably expect a 30 percent increase turnout overall in the city so that’s going to bring in a more diverse set of voters,” he said.

    “It wouldn’t be the first time elected officials put something similar up again,” added San Jose State University colleague and political science professor Larry Gerston. “With different or added voter demographics, the same bond — or a similar one — could pass. Voters might go for it.”

    The measure, endorsed by housing advocates, was the only bond that didn’t pass in last year’s election. Supporters argued that affordable units built with the bond would provide housing for seniors, veterans and middle class workers such as teachers and nurses — all vulnerable groups that are being pushed out of the South Bay.

    “We know that affordable housing in our community is still a great need,” said Ky Le, director at the Santa Clara County Office of Supportive Housing. “The economy that we have is not working for everyone and it still continues to negatively affect working families, especially individuals who are unable to work, and the poorest people in our community.”

    A public opinion survey was emailed to some San Jose residents Friday morning, testing the waters on $450 million in “general obligation bonds” with an average levy of 8 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, averaging $26.2 million annually until repaid. The money would provide affordable housing for “working families, veterans, teachers, nurses, paramedics and homeless residents,” the survey said. It’s unclear who sent it.

    Not everyone is in favor of the measure’s resurrection.

    Housing costs are only one factor driving inequality in the Bay Area. Some worry that the needs of current homeowners aren’t being acknowledged in the throes of the housing crisis.

    Councilmember Johnny Khamis told San José Spotlight on Friday that he doesn’t support raising property taxes that could make it harder for residents to live here. Last fall Khamis was the only dissenting vote among his fellow councilors when deciding to put Measure V on the ballot.

    “At this point, I think we have money, and we just need to find places to build,” he said. “We just decided to spend $111 million last week (on affordable housing). If the department was running out of money, I could understand there being a desire to do so, but the department has money.”

    Khamis added that there were two other affordable housing measures that increased property taxes on the 2018 ballot and that in 2016, Santa Clara County voters passed a nearly $1 billion affordable housing bond.

    But Le said Silicon Valley and the state needs to continue efforts to expand housing opportunities.

    “What I recall from the 2018 bond measure — Measure V — was for affordable housing, and that some significant portion of it was for people on fixed and low incomes,” Le. said. “More housing that’s affordable to a range of people is needed and I think the answer to supporting this is ‘absolutely.’ If it’s something like (Measure V), then it will help address this problem.”

    Reporter Grace Hase contributed to this report.

    Contact Nadia Lopez at [email protected] or follow @n_llopez on Twitter.

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