HOUSING IN CRISIS: Keeping families in San Jose
It’s the number one issue, and it’s time to do something about it. Across San José, the families who have made this city their home are struggling to stay here because of rising rents and increased costs of living. With these costs right now, a single person earning $66,000 per year is considered low-income; a family of four earning $94,000 per year is considered low-income. This is unsustainable for our working families, and has contributed to homelessness booming 40% over the past two years.
North San José continues to be the focal point for developing more housing, and with BART’s arrival, District 4 is growing like never before. These changes need to help our quality of life. We need real solutions to help keep our residents in their homes, and action to end the displacement of our families.
On Council, my top three policy objectives will be to 1) tackle homelessness with compassion, 2) enact the commercial linkage fee, and 3) study the rate of residential vacancies in San José.
Tackling Homelessness with Compassion, Recognizing the Working Unhoused
This is the top issue for discussion and worry in our community, and it is important to me because it’s personal. I know what it means to be without a home each night, and what got me out of my car was the compassion of a friend, Assemblyman Ash Kalra. Back when he was in the Public Defender’s Office, he opened his home to me for a few months, rent-free, so that I could bounce back. That opportunity gave me, a recent college grad at the time, the chance to be stable and work.
One of the biggest obstacles to tackling homelessess is that we see it as a stigma. The real faces of the homeless and unhoused are families, mothers and their children, LGBTQ young adults and even our colleagues at work. This is what we know about our unhoused neighbors:
67% work or want work;
44% lost their job or were evicted;
39% who are homeless for the first time;
83% have a last known address in Santa Clara County
This is a crisis, and we need to recognize that they are our friends, neighbors and fellow residents. The ‘Housing First’ model continues to be a successful model in helping residents redirect their path, but we need city leadership that will fully embrace this and get people off the streets, out of our creeks and out of their cars.
All solutions must be on the table, including finding sites for sanctioned encampments and safe parking. We must also invest in housing solutions that provide wrap-around services, especially spaces for mental health services and care, and provide the support that lets people stabilize their lives and care for themselves. Compassion got me off the streets, and compassion is how we should approach this issue.
Enact the Commercial Linkage Fee (CLF), Putting Funds Directly Into Affordable Housing
I began advocating for the CLF during my tenure as a City Commissioner. These fees would be levied on major commercial developments such as the pending Google downtown project and be reinvested into the development of affordable housing or supporting programs to prevent and address homelessness and the unhoused.
There are already models in North San José that provide housing for working families and the people who make this city run, and we need to direct resources towards these projects to spur the development of affordable housing. The resources from CLF can go towards supporting these projects and expand the programs to keep families on the brink of homelessness in their homes.
Study Residential Vacancies and Help Our Families Find Homes
Right now, the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment is $2,700 per month. The average price to buy a home is about $1.2 million.
Residential vacancies in San José need to be studied to determine their impact on our current supply of housing. Data from 2017 shows that there are over 11,000 residential vacancies in our city, 4,000 of which have no clear reason as to why. We need a full inventory of our housing stock.
Having even a fraction of these units come on the market can have an immediate impact on the price of housing for buyers and renters. We have lots of opportunities to get people into housing right now.
Housing is our most pressing issue, and it is brought up the most during our conversations. San José has has made positive strides, but available data shows that we are hemorrhaging.
I will fight to invest our resources directly towards our goals and get action to occur. We should have gotten this right, but now we must.
Huy On The Issues: HOUSING
Read Huy’s statement on proposed changes to the Ellis Act
San José City Council action on the Ellis Act - April 2019