San Jose transforms hotel for foster youth
The Pavilion Inn hotel will be transformed into affordable housing for youth transitioning out of the foster care system. Photo by Jana Kadah.

San Jose is partnering with various agencies on a multi-million-dollar project to transform a hotel into housing for youth transitioning out of foster care.

The city approved a nearly $2.8 million grant to close the funding gap on a $32 million affordable housing project in San Jose. Developer Jamboree Housing Corporation will transform the Pavilion Inn hotel on 4th Street into 39 apartments for people between the ages of 18 and 25 transitioning out of foster care system. The City Council approved the grant unanimously this week.

The property right now is being used as a hotel.

“There’s so much to like about this project,” Councilmember Dev Davis said. “Low dollar investment by the city—that’s great. No ongoing cost for the city—that’s great. Wonderful services for transitional age youth—awesome.”

The hotel is one of San Jose’s Project Homekey sites—a statewide program that repurposes hotels and motels into temporary or permanent housing. Project Homekey is footing 44% of the bill, or $14 million, for the Pavilion Inn. The project is also getting $10 million from the Santa Clara County Housing Authority and $5 million from Santa Clara County.

San Jose and Santa Clara County have focused efforts on transitional aged youth, including a universal basic income program, because they are more at risk of becoming homeless. The Pavilion Inn will be San Jose’s second site for these youth. The first one, Sobrato House in downtown San Jose, opened in 2006.

Last September, Mayor Sam Liccardo and several city councilmembers introduced a plan called “Compassionate San Jose—Bold Housing Solutions” with the goal to cut homelessness by 20% through cheap to build emergency housing. The plan calls for roughly 600 prefabricated homes to be under construction or completed by December. The proposal also wants convert at least 300 motel rooms to serve some of the most vulnerable residents in the city.

San Jose has been slow in meeting that goal, but the millions in Project Homekey dollars may help. One of those Project Homekey developments will be at Branham Lane and Monterey Road —a three-story prefab modular project with 204 rooms with private bathrooms.

Councilmember Matt Mahan said while he supports the Pavilion project, he is concerned about costs. He noted the price per unit is about $700,000—similar to building a new housing development.

“This is a great project. It’s serving a population that really needs our support,” Mahan said. “I just (want) to better understand if there are things we can do to get that cost (down) per unit or maybe, more importantly, cost per person served down in the future.”

Flaherty Ward, director of real estate at the Santa Clara County Housing Authority, said the costs are higher because of planned renovations. They decided to combine some units so they could add a kitchen and other amenities in the rooms.

“If we did not combine the units and did not add kitchens, that would definitely reduce the cost,” Ward said. “It’s really important that they can prepare their own food and learn life skills, so we want to support that. We do believe that the upfront initial investment is important to ensuring that we have stability and the outcomes we want.”

The idea behind the Pavilion Inn transformation was spearheaded by Sparky Harlan, CEO of the Bill Wilson Center — a nonprofit that provides services for vulnerable children and families. The Bill Wilson Center will master-lease 25 apartments as transitional housing for young adults who are moving out of the foster care system. Fourteen apartments will provide permanent housing for transitional age youth who are parents. And three units will be reserved for mentors who will assist with services to residents and provide on-site management during the evenings and weekends.

The county, along with the Bill Wilson Center, will provide services to these families including vocational skill training, cooking and healthy eating, money management, substance abuse counseling and treatment, and connections to community resources such as the California Department of Social Services’ CalWORKS and CalFresh public assistance programs.

Like all Project Homekey sites, it must be completed within a year of receiving funding. Construction is expected to be completed in summer 2023, with residents occupying apartments shortly thereafter.

Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.

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