UPDATE: Santa Clara County supervisors approve millions for affordable housing
Casitas de Esperanza at the Civic Center, a tiny home community, serves 25 families. Photo by Tran Nguyen.

    Several affordable housing projects are coming to Santa Clara County as officials race to build more homes to address growing homelessness.

    The Board of Supervisors approved $75.5 million on Tuesday to build six new affordable housing projects—four in San Jose, one in Mountain View and one in Sunnyvale—adding 758 apartments to the South Bay’s housing inventory.

    “Santa Clara County has a goal to achieve a ‘functional zero’ in five years, meaning the number of housing placements for families in the county is greater than the number of families entering homelessness,” Supervisor Cindy Chavez said in a statement. Chavez noted over 600 families a year become homeless in the county.

    Several housing advocates applauded supervisors for supporting the projects.

    “We strongly believe funding more supportive and affordable homes is the best way to end and prevent homelessness in our community,” said Alan Gouig, policy and advocacy associate with the Silicon Valley Council of Nonprofits.

    Santa Clara County has seen its homelessness crisis explode the last few years, as the COVID-19 pandemic pushed more families and residents out into the streets. As COVID engulfed the area, homeless encampments across the county dramatically grew in size and visibility. Sweeps in some cities displaced unhoused individuals, and advocates logged 250 people who died on the streets last year.

    A 2019 survey shows the number of unhoused people in Santa Clara County reached a record high of more than 9,700 people that year. It’s unclear how many are currently living on the streets because the county canceled its biennial count due to the pandemic, but advocates say the issue has only gotten worse. The county is scheduled to conduct a new count later this month.

    “Right now I have a client who is unhoused—I can’t say to her we have housing available,” said Angela Rausch, a board member for the advocacy group Livable Sunnyvale. “Housing is scarce, we need more housing.”

    The county is planning to build a 365-unit affordable development at McEvoy and Dupont streets, a 103-unit affordable senior apartment complex on North 15th Street and a 116-unit affordable family development on Grand Avenue and Race Street—all in San Jose. It also plans to convert the Residence Inn on San Ignacio Avenue into 102 affordable and supportive housing units.

    The plan also calls for building a 93-unit affordable development on West Weddell Drive in Sunnyvale and turning a lot in Mountain View into a 120-apartment family complex.

    On top of all that, supervisors approved $2 million for an expansion of a motel shelter program run by Amigos de Guadalupe to add 45 more beds for families in crisis. The nonprofit currently operates Santa Clara County’s tiny home site near the old City Hall in San Jose, which hosts 25 families.

    “This (program) helps families build a sense of community and empowerment,” said Maritza Maldonado, executive director of Amigos de Guadalupe. “This process will lead them from hopelessness to self sufficiency and connections with the greater community.”

    County supervisors have raced to build more housing, especially with the unprecedented amount of money coming from Measure A, a $950 million housing bond approved by voters in 2016, as well as federal and state funds. According to the county, Santa Clara has funded 3,684 affordable units through Measure A—830 of them are in operation and serving more than 1,600 people.

    The funding for the new developments is mostly coming from Measure A. The county will also pool money from sources such as No Place Like Home and the Affordable Housing for the Intellectually and Developmentally Disabled funds to pay for the projects.

    More than half of the new housing, or 497 units, will serve those who earn less than 80% of the area median income—below $117,750 for a Santa Clara County household of four, according to the county. More than 100 apartments will be used as permanent supportive housing, and another 122 units will serve as temporary housing, according to the proposal.

    Cindy Nguyen, a mother of three who’s staying at the tiny home site Casitas de Esperanza at the Civic Center, said such a project is a lifesaver for her family. Since moving into the site, Nguyen has found a new job, gotten her sons back to school and submitted an application for an apartment.

    “Casitas has been helping me, providing tutoring after school for my boys and much more support,” she said. “I feel like we’re a family here, and we feel safe here.”

    Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter. Contact Eli Wolfe at [email protected] or @EliWolfe4 on Twitter.

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