Santa Clara County puts another $350M toward affordable housing
Santa Clara County set a goal of building 4,800 affordable housing units. Image courtesy of city of San Jose.

Santa Clara County supervisors are set Tuesday to pump another $350 million of affordable housing bond money to build more low-income housing.

In 2016, Santa Clara County residents approved a $950 million housing bond, known as Measure A, to fund construction of 4,800 housing units across the Bay Area.

The premise of Measure A has always been to use the nearly $1 billion bond within a decade to quickly build thousands of homes. Though the county has allocated money on time, it’s struggled to build units fast enough to keep up with the rising costs of construction and inflation.

“We (the county), with the leadership of our voters, instead of making this a 30-year program, we made this a 10-year program to build housing as fast as we can to make sure we get people in our community housed,” said Supervisor Cindy Chavez. “Tomorrow I’m looking forward to passing the second $350 million (portion) of resources to make it available for affordable housing.”

An audit presented in March by accounting firm MGO stated that Measure A “has not been effective in accomplishing its mission” to provide affordable housing. Auditors wrote that the slow rate of construction and delivery has made projects vulnerable to price increases, ultimately threatening the county’s ability to provide housing for those most in need.

So far, 2,969 apartments have been funded for construction. To date, only 217 have been built and occupied.

Chavez’s spokeswoman Beth Willon on Monday claimed in a media advisory that 2,969 apartments had been built using Measure A funding “years ahead of the 10-year goal” — instead of 217. She also claimed 34 housing developments were completed. Only four have been completed.

The 10-year goal is 4,800 housing units.

She sent out a clarification hours later after being asked about it by San José Spotlight.

Officials said several more apartment complexes are scheduled to open this spring and summer, including Leigh Avenue Apartments for seniors in San Jose.

There are three main reasons why Measure A projects are behind schedule: Delayed land-use permits, construction delays and setbacks in obtaining necessary funding.

In March, Consuelo Hernandez, director of the county’s Office of Supportive Housing, said she’s been candid with everyone—including county supervisors—about how difficult building housing is.

“It takes five years from the time you identify a site for development to the time you can open the doors,” Hernandez said at the time. “Five years on a good day. I realize we share the same concerns as you do about speed and progress.”

As of April, 618 existing units have been funded for renovation, while 332 are renovated and occupied.

To date, 34 housing developments have been funded and four have been completed. Complexes funded in this new portion of Measure A money include units in Mountain View, Palo Alto and Los Altos, according to Hernandez.

“I’ve had the honor and privilege of implementing the affordable housing bond since the voters passed it in 2016,” Hernandez said. “We moved very quickly. Our first report to the board was in February 2017, and by November of that same year we were (making project recommendations).”

The housing bond also set aside $25 million for a first-time homebuyer loan program. Since the program opened in 2017, 29 families purchased a home with the help of the loan. In 2021 alone, Chavez said five households purchased a home.

Contact Madelyn Reese at [email protected] or follow @MadelynGReese on Twitter.

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