Santa Clara County preserves affordable apartments for seniors
The Santa Clara County Housing Authority has purchased the Girasol Apartments in East San Jose to preserve affordable housing. Photo by Annalise Freimarck.

    San Jose housing advocates are praising a deal between county and federal agencies to preserve affordable housing for low-income seniors on the east side of the city.

    The Santa Clara County Housing Authority purchased Girasol Apartments and Jardines Paloma Blanca last week from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for $4.15 million and $2.65 million, respectively. Girasol Apartments provides 60 affordable homes for seniors and 42 are offered at Jardines Paloma Blanca.

    Nathan Ho, senior strategic advisor for the housing authority, said the agency purchased the sites to protect affordable housing for residents and to avoid potential displacement, which could have happened if a private entity bought the properties.

    “That fits very much into the housing authority’s mission to not only provide, but also to preserve affordable housing in our community,” Ho told San José Spotlight.

    The housing authority will conduct an assessment of the properties to determine the renovations needed, but a spokesperson said the properties are in good shape. Residents will be able to stay in their apartments while renovations are made.

    The purchase marks a new role for the agency to preserve affordable housing—an issue with a complicated history in San Jose.

    Last year, the South Bay Community Land Trust stepped in to preserve a housing site for unhoused veterans, becoming the first community land trust to do so in San Jose.

    But the Community Opportunity to Purchase Act, which would have allowed nonprofits to stake the first claim in multi-family residential properties to maintain affordable housing, was rejected by San Jose City Council in April.

    Jessica Paz-Cedillos, executive director of the School of Arts and Culture at Mexican Heritage Plaza, called the purchase a win for seniors in the Mayfair area. The School of Arts and Culture is drawing closer to securing its fundraising goal of $25 million to fuel economic development along the Alum Rock Avenue corridor and help redevelop land for affordable housing.

    She said many seniors in the Mayfair community are unable to save up for retirement because they have to prioritize rent and groceries, making affordable housing a key factor in their ability to retire.

    “(Preserving these properties) is the right thing to do,” she told San José Spotlight. “It’s important for us to have affordable housing for seniors and for us to be able to take care of our most vulnerable population.”

    Last year, 58% of homeless people who died in Santa Clara County were at least 50 years old, and in 2019, people who were at least 51 made up 40% of the unhoused population.

    HUD has worked with the county before to provide solutions to homelessness and affordable housing. In April, the federal agency doled out $11 million to a county program aimed at ending homelessness.

    HUD did not respond to requests for comment, but agency representatives said this is a significant milestone for seniors in need of housing in a news release.

    “HUD is pleased to provide this opportunity to preserve the long-term affordability of these apartments for low-income seniors in East San Jose,” HUD Pacific Regional Administrator Jason Pu said.

    Councilmember Peter Ortiz, who represents East San Jose, said he is grateful the housing authority worked quickly to secure the properties for the residents.

    “If the county didn’t come in, this could have been disastrous for those senior families,” he told San José Spotlight.

    Contact Annalise Freimarck at [email protected] or follow @annalise_ellen on Twitter.

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