The San Jose City Council signed off on a $65 million spending plan intended for affordable housing and homeless services.
On Tuesday, Councilmembers approved allocation of funds raised through Measure E—a 2020 property transfer tax to pay for affordable housing, safe parking and programs to support the homeless. The measure is expected to produce $205 million in revenue by the end of fiscal year 2022-23.
The San Jose City Council deferred voting on the item last month at the request of Mayor Sam Liccardo who was out of town. Per Liccardo’s request, the council clarified the funds can be used with broad discretion by different agencies as long as they don’t exceed the percentage of money allocated to general categories of service, such as supportive housing for low-income residents.
“Otherwise, the nature of the procedural requirements we’ve imposed through the measure are going to leave you a little bit hamstrung,” Liccardo said to Housing Director Jacky Morales-Ferrand.
More than two-thirds of the funding—over $43 million—will cover the cost of building and preserving supportive housing and low-income homes and acquiring land. More than $6 million will go to organizations that support homelessness prevention and rental assistance, and over $9 million will support organizations like HomeFirst and PATH that operate homeless support programs.
“We are focusing our resources where they will have the greatest impact on our homelessness and housing crises,” San Jose housing department spokesperson Jeff Scott told San José Spotlight.
Several housing advocates and residents said Measure E provides important resources for addressing housing scarcity and homelessness in Silicon Valley.
“I am really grateful for the land acquisition piece of this,” said resident Jill Borders, who shared a story about moving six times before finally settling in a mobile home. “I’ve had almost nine solid years here to finish raising my daughter and that has been an essential ingredient to the stability my family needed for a healthy situation.”
Advocates say Measure E funding is a significant way for San Jose to address two systemic problems that have become a growing concern for city officials: homelessness and lack of affordable homes. But some say it doesn’t move the needle far enough.
“None of the money in Measure E is going to produce a significant number of units,” Sandy Perry, president of the Affordable Housing Network of Santa Clara County, told San José Spotlight, noting the funds cover just a fraction of the thousands of homes the city needs to build.
Moving in a good direction
Liccardo proposed Measure E to help the city address the growing number of homeless people relying on social programs for assistance. The measure created a permanent tax on property transactions greater than $2 million. In 2016, Santa Clara County voters approved a $950 million housing bond known as Measure A. Both sources of revenue have been used to fund affordable housing projects and financial assistance programs.
San Jose officials pledged to build 10,000 affordable homes by 2023, but the city is still thousands of units short of its goal. City leaders recently started exploring incentives to entice developers to build affordable homes, such as speeding up the permitting process and cutting construction taxes.
Perry believes one of the best uses of Measure E funds is to acquire and preserve homes to keep them from becoming unaffordable. Perry serves as a board member for the South Bay Community Land Trust, which works to boost the local stock of affordable homes by purchasing houses and putting them under the control of residents.
“We think it’s a really good direction the city is moving in by investing more in preservation,” Perry said. “Expanding the preservation sector and infrastructure is going to have really important benefits in fighting displacement that go beyond just the number of units (built).”
The Bill Wilson Center, a nonprofit that runs various community programs in Santa Clara County, is set to receive $60,000 in Measure E money. The center’s CEO, Sparky Harlan, told San José Spotlight this money will help pay for a worker who will manage inquiries from homeless college students seeking help. Harlan said there were a significant number of referrals during the pandemic and she wants to expand the center’s capacity to assist students in need.
“We wanted to make sure anyone who contacted us got a resolution,” Harlan said, adding students often reach out after losing their jobs because they need short-term financial assistance. “It ends up being much more than just the immediate placement into housing—it’s also helping them maintain stability.”
Alex Shoor, speaking in his capacity as executive director of Catalyze SV, appreciates that Measure E funds affordable housing in San Jose. But he said developers and local governments often don’t maximize the number of units they can put in a building.
“With land being so expensive and it being so hard to get these projects built, we can’t afford to leave units on the table,” Shoor told San José Spotlight. “The fact that these governments, through Measure E and Measure A, now have access to funds to help developers get over the finish line, they have to build as many homes as they can.”
Contact Eli Wolfe at [email protected] or @EliWolfe4 on Twitter.
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