SAN JOSE IS greenlighting two housing projects that would provide 145 apartments for low-income residents and youth transitioning out of the foster care system.
The San Jose City Council voted 10-1 at its Jan. 31 meeting to approve a $16.8 million loan for an 81-unit affordable housing project at 1510-1540 Parkmoor Ave. Newly-appointed Councilmember Arjun Batra cast the lone dissenting vote. The council voted unanimously to spend $5.2 million to help purchase land at 2388 S. Bascom Ave. and provide a $9.4 million loan for a 64 low-income apartment project.
The project on Parkmoor Avenue, which is being developed by Allied Housing, will have 40 apartments for foster youth between the ages of 15 and 24. The remaining apartments will serve low-income residents, including 20 rooms for people who have been homeless for more than a year. The plan calls for the ground floor to be developed into a 17,000-square-foot program center for foster youth. Dubbed “the Hub,” the program center will house several community organizations to help support foster youth. Santa Clara County will own and operate the building and has committed at least $20 million to the project.
“This is going to be a great addition to the affordable housing stock in the city of San Jose and the county of Santa Clara,” Councilmember Dev Davis, who represents the area, told San José Spotlight. “I’m glad that we have finally gotten a project that will serve transition-age youth, which is an underserved portion of our low-income population.”
The Bascom project
In District 9, the plan for the apartment complex on South Bascom Avenue, also known as the Dry Creek Crossing project, calls for 20 one-bedroom apartments, 25 two-bedroom apartments, 18 three-bedroom apartments and one three-bedroom manager’s apartment. The project will serve low-income to moderate-income families and individuals.
San Jose will spend $5.2 million to buy the 0.63-acre site and lease it to developers before construction starts. The land and the building will be city property after 65 years. The complex, developed by CRP Affordable Housing and others, is located within the South Bascom Urban Village plan area and along a major transit line.
District 9 Councilmember Pam Foley said the project will have large apartments to serve families in the area.
“Most affordable housing developers are just building one or two bedrooms for individuals, but not for families, so this is really a good advancement,” Foley told San José Spotlight. “This is one of many (affordable housing projects) coming or in the process of coming into District 9.”
The project proposals come as San Jose struggles to address its growing housing crisis. The problem has driven thousands of residents out of the area and pushed thousands into homelessness. San Jose is also facing a daunting task required by the state to produce more than 34,000 affordable homes by 2031. Affordable homes are difficult to finance, city officials said, but San Jose is banking on Measure E funds, passed in 2020, to help it reach its goal.
High costs and lengthy timelines
Batra, who said during the appointment process that San Jose’s biggest issue is a lack of affordable housing, voted down the Parkmoor Avenue project. He lambasted the high costs at the meeting, asking city officials if San Jose could use prefabricated homes instead to cut expenses. He’s also concerned it would take two to three years to build these homes. The projected total cost for an apartment is more than $968,000, according to the city. Prefab housing costs roughly $100,000 per unit and can be constructed in months, city officials previously said.
Batra told San José Spotlight he supports both projects, but wants to the city to move quicker in addressing the housing crisis. His “no” vote was to demonstrate his frustration with the current pace.
“This is to record the point that whatever we are doing currently is good, but it is not good enough,” he said. “We need to work hard to reduce the cost and reduce the time it takes to build affordable housing.”
“Housing for our transition-age youth, and especially our former foster youth, is critically important in the community. We are seeing more of these, but not enough.”Pilar Furlong, deputy chief program officer of youth services at the Bill Wilson Center
City officials said the Parkmoor Avenue project costs more because of the additional programs and services. Housing Director Jacky Morales-Ferrand said construction costs have also skyrocketed in the past year, but the city is not bearing the total cost for each unit in the project because it has several other funding sources such as from the county and other bank loans.
Local housing advocates applauded the Parkmoor Avenue project, saying the combination of affordable housing and supportive services will help build community and support tenants.
“Housing for our transition-age youth, and especially our former foster youth, is critically important in the community,” Pilar Furlong, deputy chief program officer of youth services at the Bill Wilson Center, told San José Spotlight. “We are seeing more of these, but not enough.”
Alex Shoor, executive director of Catalyze SV, said it’s concerning to see Batra vote no on the proposal.
“Would we like to see more housing built quicker and using cheaper construction costs? Absolutely. But voting against a project for that reason, that’s a different story,” Shoor told San José Spotlight. “If (elected officials) say they’re supportive of housing, they need to vote for housing.”
Batra said he’ll be working closely with the housing department to remove barriers in building affordable housing.
“My mission is to help (the city) speed up,” he said. “We can’t lose sight of the fact these projects are taking two to two and half years, while our need was yesterday.”
Both projects are scheduled to begin construction late 2023 and early 2024.
Contact Tran Nguyen at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter.