Residents Weigh In on Housing Needs for San Jose; More Meetings Planned

View the presentation given by San Jose’s Housing and Planning departments

San Jose residents have a chance to help shape future plans for housing — from sheltering the homeless to creating urban villages – at a series of meetings offered by the city’s housing and planning departments.

The city needs to address needs for the next eight years because of an anticipated population growth, shifts in age groups and a workforce unevenly divided by income. The first step in updating the state-required Housing Element is getting public input to determine what kinds of housing residents think is important in their neighborhoods.

San Jose needs to plan 35,000 housing units in the next eight years, according to a Regional Housing Need Allocation set by the Association of Bay Area Governments’ projections of where Bay Area grown will be. But there is a wide variety of housing possibilities. Should San Jose build more senior housing or high rises downtown? Should the units be apartments and condos? Should they be rental or for sale?

The first meeting on January 22, at Roosevelt Community Center drew a small but vocal group concerned that more attention should be focused on the lack of housing for the growing homeless population as well as those classified as very low and extremely low income.

With the economy picking up, the housing market is hot again, with projects that were stalled by the recession moving forward. But builders are not proposing affordable housing projects.

“It’s getting worse and worse,” said Carol Valentine, a Spartan-Keyes area resident who lives near a homeless encampment called The Jungle.

San Jose’s Housing Department has lost two important tools aimed at creating affordable housing, explained Wayne Chen of the city’s Housing Department. The city’s Inclusionary Housing rule, which required developers to provide below-market-rate units has been challenged in court, and the demise of the Redevelopment Agency took away an allocation of 20 percent of revenue going to housing.

The area’s current housing boom has targeted those with moderate to high incomes who can afford to pay the average $2,600 in rent for a three-bedroom, two-bath house or condo, or buy a condo for the median $431,000 or a single-family home for $695,000.

Yet, the workforce divide is getting wider. According to the California Development Department, 31 percent of the workforce earns a median income of $84,600 to $144,000, and 46 percent of the workforce earns a median income of $19,700 to $55,700.

The update comes at a time when San Jose is also developing strategies to increase the ratio of jobs to residents and meeting with the community to plan urban villages, a concept that will guide future building and growth. Looking at San Jose’s 70 urban village sites is also part of the Housing Element analysis.

There are new tools the city is considering to boost housing for those in the lower end of the income range, said Michael Bills, representing the Department of Planning, Building and Code Enforcement, including a Housing Impact Fee imposed on builders to create an Affordable Housing fund.

“To make this a good city, we have to be the lead in coming up with a new idea to try,” Valentine said.

The remaining meetings for the Housing Element Update discussions are:

• Alum Rock Planning Area Neighborhoods: 6 to 7:30 p.m. on February 6 at Mayfair Community Center Kammerer Avenue.

• Willow Glen Planning Area Neighborhoods: 6 to 7:30 p.m. on February 10 at Willow Glen Community Center, 2175 Lincoln Avenue.

• Berryessa Planning Area Neighborhoods: 6 to 7:30 p.m. on February 20 at the Berryessa Community Center, 3050 Berryessa Road.

• West Valley Planning Area Neighborhoods: 6 to 7:30 p.m. on February 25 at Calabazas Library, 1230 South Blaney Avenue.