Santa Clara County spurs more affordable housing
San Jose will purchase and convert the Arena Hotel near downtown to affordable housing using a $25.2 million grant from the state's Project Homekey program. Photo by Tran Nguyen.

Santa Clara County has seen a number of milestones in its effort to increase the affordable housing inventory this month, including a first in a decade development for North San Jose.

The county and cities like San Jose and Santa Clara are racing to build more housing—especially affordable and supportive residences—to help address a housing crisis that has driven residents away and left others falling into homelessness.

In San Jose, officials are revitalizing efforts to build more affordable homes in North San Jose after a legal obstacle that blocked new housing in the area for almost a decade was removed recently.

Councilmember David Cohen, who represents a large swath of North San Jose in District 4, announced a 440-unit affordable housing project Wednesday at 71 Vista Montana—a lot the city purchased in 2020 for $22.8 million. San Jose used the lot as a safe parking site for homeless residents for several months last year.

The development, the first in a decade for the area, will work to rectify the lack of affordable housing in North San Jose.

“It’s been 10 years since we’ve started a new project in North San Jose, and my goal certainly is that 20% of all the units in North San Jose will be affordable,” Cohen told San José Spotlight, adding several other projects and proposals are already in the works.

The project, being developed by Charities Housing, is close to public transportation, shopping malls and job opportunities. The complex will serve families, with a number of residences being reserved for unhoused people, according to city documents. San Jose is expecting construction to start next year, with a goal to eventually add approximately 24,000 units over the years.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see between 5,000 and 8,000 new units in the next five years.” Cohen said.

San Jose will also convert the Arena Hotel, located at 817 The Alameda, into interim housing for homeless residents—with plans to eventually turn it into permanent housing. The project, funded by a $25.2 million Project Homekey grant from the state, will add 90 units to San Jose’s inventory. The site is also near resources such as public transit.

“We are glad to get this process moving forward, and I’m glad we can start to have conversations with our community to fully hear what their thoughts and concerns are,” Councilmember Dev Davis, who represents the area where the hotel is located, told San José Spotlight. “The thing for me that is important is to ensure that each project that comes is going to be a benefit to its residents and to the neighborhood.”

San Jose is waiting on state funding decisions for other Project Homekey applications, including a 204-unit project at the intersection of Branham Lane and Monterey Road and the Pacific Motor Inn that would add 72 supportive units.

Santa Clara residents and elected officials at a ribbon cutting celebrating the Calabazas housing project, which will add 145 affordable studio apartments to the city. Photo courtesy of Supervisor Susan Ellenberg’s office.

New projects in Santa Clara

In Santa Clara, residents and elected officials rejoiced this week at a ribbon cutting event to celebrate a supportive housing project at 2904 Corvin Dr. The five-story building, called the Calabazas Apartments, features 145 studio apartments—80 of which are supportive housing units.

The county contributed $29 million from Measure A—a $950 million housing bond approved by voters in 2016—to the project while the city pitched in another $5 million. Abode Services took lead in developing the building and is also providing on-site support like job assistance and case management. Construction was completed last October. As of this week, the building is fully occupied.

“That’s 144 people, plus a few dependents, who were homeless but now have a place to live,” Andrew Crabtree, director of Santa Clara’s Community Development department, told San José Spotlight. “That’s pretty significant for us.”

The Calabazas Apartments in Santa Clara will provide much-needed affordable housing. Photo courtesy of Supervisor Susan Ellenberg’s office.

Local officials also celebrated a groundbreaking for an 80-unit supportive senior housing project this week at 3333 Kifer Rd. The six-story project will reserve 46 rooms for chronically homeless seniors and eight units for senior homeless veterans.

The county has allocated $7.4 million from Measure A funds and $6.6 million in No Place Like Home funds to the project, a state program geared toward housing people who experience chronic homelessness. The city also committed $4 million to the project. Abode Services is developing this property, as well. Officials expect construction to be completed by late 2023.

“Santa Clara is proud to celebrate the Calabazas Apartments’ opening and begin construction on the Kifer senior housing project,” Mayor Lisa Gillmor told San José Spotlight. “These significant projects provide housing to some of the most vulnerable in our community.”

Since 2016, Santa Clara County has doled out $588 million to support 41 housing projects—or roughly 4,440 residences—across the region. More than 800 residences have been completed as of May, county data shows. The slow progress of Measure A has drawn criticism, but county officials said this funding continues to be a game changer for the region.

“This is about the most important work we can be doing right now,” Supervisor Susan Ellenberg, who represents the area where the two projects are located, told San José Spotlight, adding more affordable housing projects will come online soon. “This (funding) makes a difference to every single person that we’ve provided housing for.”

Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter.

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