San Jose to consider investing $9.4M for Alum Rock housing project

Tucked away into a far corner of the city, the San Jose City Council’s approved Alum Rock Avenue Urban Village project seeks to revitalize a predominantly Latino neighborhood of San Jose.

An 87-unit mixed-use affordable housing complex located in the heart of the neighborhood is included in those plans, and that building may soon move one step closer toward breaking ground as the City Council next Tuesday plans to discuss investing nearly $9.4 million to construct the housing. The project’s total costs amount to nearly $55.4 million.

The effort is part of the city’s commitment to devoting at least $100 million to eleven affordable housing projects across San Jose — a tremendous investment local leaders promised last February.

“The housing department recommends that City Council approve a construction-permanent loan amount of up to $9,350,000,” wrote housing director Jacky Morales-Ferrand and budget director Jim Shannon in a joint memo. “The Alum Rock Family Housing development is a viable opportunity to serve residents from a wide range of income levels, of whom may potentially include downtown workers.”

A rendering of the proposed Alum Rock Family Housing project. Image courtesy of Santa Clara County.

The project — Alum Rock Family Housing — is located at 2350 Alum Rock Avenue between King Road and Highway 680 on the corner of Alum Rock Avenue and Foss Street, situated in the neighborhood’s commercial corridor. The site is owned by Santa Clara County, in part because it is also supported with Measure A funds — a $950 million affordable housing bond measure — and will be built by developer Affirmed Housing Group.

However, many Alum Rock residents’ fears of displacement spurred by redevelopment have prompted East San Jose Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco and nonprofit organizations such as SOMOS Mayfair to host community meetings and discuss the neighborhood’s transformation. Last year, Carrasco also introduced a $100,000 budget proposal to help small businesses in the Alum Rock corridor that are at a higher risk of being displaced.

Eighty five of the units will be affordable and rent-restricted, where more than half will be designated for extremely low-income residents while 29 will be reserved for permanent supportive housing. Fourteen of the units will go to residents who qualify for the city’s rapid rehousing program, and they’ll receive on-site case management. Santa Clara County and the nonprofit, People Assisting the Homeless (PATH), will provide supportive services for all of the building’s residents.

Two of the units will be used for the site’s building managers.

The proposed development’s ground floor will be used for commercial space, while the building will include a “community room with a kitchen, a lounge, property management and services, staff offices, large outdoor decks and on-site bicycle storage.”

“This development will serve families and formerly homeless households within our community in need of permanent housing,” Morales-Ferrand and Shannon added. “The city is facing a tremendous need for affordable housing.”

While the new site is a positive step for the city in creating more affordable housing opportunities, longtime Alum Rock residents for months have been concerned about new development in their neighborhoods, afraid the new growth means they’ll be pushed out. Already, several shopkeepers have said they’re being forced to close their doors, with little to no communication from the developers that are swooping into the area about possible re-location assistance. That means many longtime business owners will either need to finance their own re-location or close altogether.

To help temper some of the neighbor’s worries, Affirmed Housing Group and its partner PATH held a series of ten community meetings from March to May 2019, including “listening sessions” where residents could express their concerns and give feedback directly to the developer.

But many residents still feel apprehensive about the proposed neighborhood’s plans.

Last year, Carrasco said she supports transforming the corridor into an urban village as long as it doesn’t compromise the character of the neighborhood or displace residents.

“We need to do what we have to at all costs to preserve the nature and the character of Alum Rock,” Carrasco told San José Spotlight in June. “We have not had a development on the East Side in the last 20 years, and right now we can’t keep developers away from the East Side because they’ve discovered the magic and potential on the corridor.”

Still, the project offers a glimmer of hope to the growing population of low-income residents in need of housing and adds to the number of affordable units that are entitled, completed or under construction in the city. The development brings the total up to 1,725 units, chipping away at Mayor Sam Liccardo’s ambitious goal of building at least 10,000 new affordable housing units by 2022. According to city records, the city still has a long way to go. As of November, only 245 of those 10,000 units had been built since Liccardo announced his plan in 2017.

If the funds are approved by the City Council on Tuesday Jan. 14, Affirmed Housing Group will apply for a tax-exempt bond and state tax credits this month before starting to build.

Housing officials expect construction to begin by May 2020 and be completed by Sept. 2021.

The City Council meets at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday inside the council chambers at San Jose City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St. in San Jose.

Contact Nadia Lopez at nadia@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @n_llopez on Twitter.

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