Silicon Valley officials want to build more homeless housing – San José Spotlight

Casitas de Esperanza at the Civic Center, a tiny home community, serves 25 families. Photo by Tran Nguyen.

Several affordable housing projects might be coming to Santa Clara County soon, as officials race to build more homes to address growing homelessness.

The Board of Supervisors is poised to approve $75.5 million 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.

“We know that we have over 600 families a year becoming homeless in our community,” Supervisor Cindy Chavez said Monday, adding the county is focusing on lifting them off the streets and preventing others from falling into homelessness. “One family a year is too many to be on our streets here in Santa Clara County.”

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.

According to the proposal, 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, Chavez said supervisors will also consider a $2 million 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 lawmakers 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, would 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 would be used as permanent supportive housing, and another 122 units would 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.”

The Board of Supervisors meets Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. Click here to learn how to watch and participate.

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

This story will be updated.