San Jose leaders are finally voting on a long-awaited affordable housing preservation policy this week that will either prevent displacement of renters or hurt the local property market, depending on who you ask.
The Community Opportunity to Purchase Act, or COPA, comes before the San Jose City Council Wednesday. The policy would give qualified nonprofits the ability to make the first offer on multi-family residential properties in San Jose to maintain affordable rents and curb displacement. But after countless council discussions and community meetings, it appears the policy might not have the six votes it needs to move forward.
With the policy likely heading for failure, Councilmembers Peter Ortiz, David Cohen and Sergio Jimenez suggest pivoting away from COPA to explore other options and create an affordable housing preservation work plan. In a memo, the three councilmembers said the city should consider purchasing and rehabilitating affordable housing and supporting nonprofits, like the South Bay Community Land Trust, that do housing preservation work. Other policy recommendations include creating a system to notify tenants when their building is being sold and educating renters on their rights.
“This would enable an ecosystem where nonprofits have greater capacity to purchase and retain affordable housing,” the councilmembers wrote in the memo. “Ultimately, we are striving to find ways to preserve affordable units across the city while also providing tenants resources to keep their housing.”
Ortiz tried and failed to delay the council vote at a committee meeting last week in an effort to save COPA from rejection. The city council first studied COPA in 2020 and it faced several delays before returning for a vote. Several cities have adopted similar policies, including Washington D.C. and San Francisco. Assemblymember Ash Kalra also introduced a state version of COPA in February.
Sandy Perry, president of the Affordable Housing Network of Santa Clara County, said the memo from Ortiz, Cohen and Jimenez saves “as many pieces of the policy as we can.”
“San Jose is the only major city in the Bay Area that doesn’t provide recurring funding for affordable housing preservation and this needs to change,” Perry said. “Building out a robust preservation ecosystem is key to addressing the housing crisis.”
Proponents like Perry said COPA would allow nonprofits and the city to leverage state and federal preservation dollars to purchase housing, help people stay in their homes and increase the city’s supply of affordable housing. Opponents believe the policy would give too much power to nonprofits and affect a property owner’s ability to market their home. Both sides have been putting pressure on the council with rallies and lobbying efforts.
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