The November 6 election is fast approaching and in addition to many political contests, ballots will be stocked with initiatives for voters to decide upon. On the state level, $6 billion to help alleviate the housing crisis is at stake. Proposition 1, known as the Veterans and Affordable Housing Act could allow the investment of $4 billion in affordable housing for veterans, seniors and families. Proposition 2, or the No Place Like Home Act, could provide $2 billion in bond funding for individuals experiencing homelessness, mental illness or living with a disability. The money would be used to construct supportive housing for those populations.
According to Silicon Valley at Home, an organization advocating for the creation of affordable housing, Silicon Valley is especially in need of such funds due to a high degree of income inequality and steep housing costs in the region. August data from Rent Jungle shows that the average apartment in Santa Clara goes for $3,110, up 8.1 percent from last year. One bedroom apartments in the City rent for $2,758 a month, a 6.96 percent increase from 2017.
These steep increases in housing costs come at time when overall wages have stagnated despite other promising economic metrics such as low unemployment. A report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that full-time weekly earnings fell behind the inflation rate during the first half of 2018 as well as the last three months of 2017.
Andrew Crabtree, director of community development for the City of Santa Clara, said that if the affordable housing measures pass, it could mean the creation of more needed developments for the City.
“We have an affordable housing program with a team that’s actively working on 100 percent affordable housing projects,” he said. “We currently have three affordable housing projects in the pipeline worth $5 million each. Additional funding could help support more of these projects. We expect to see an increase in this type of development.”
Crabtree said that his department works closely with both developers and the County to put together viable affordable housing projects and that it’s a very collaborative process. He described the County’s Measure A, approved by voters in 2016, which provided $950 million in affordable housing bonds, as having a positive outcome in terms of housing creation.
If Props 1 and 2 passed, there would be steep competition for the funds in the form of grant programs. Crabtree said the City would likely apply for the funding but that it would be an incremental process and specific requirements would have to be met.
This past summer, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg donated $250,000 to Prop 1 and the measure has garnered many endorsements including from the California Labor Federation, League of California Cities and United Ways of California. According to the campaign for Prop 1, one-third of Californians can’t afford their rent, spending as much as 50 percent of incomes to stay housed. The state also has the most homeless veterans, 24 percent of the nation’s total.
“The funds will also help to alleviate transportation congestion by locating housing near jobs and strengthen California’s economy by providing an estimated 147,000 construction jobs, $24.5 billion in economic activity, and $1.1 billion in additional local and state taxes and fees,” stated literature from Silicon Valley at Home.
Crabtree said that the City partners with the County to conduct a homelessness survey every two years. In 2017, it was estimated that there were 7,394 people experiencing homelessness in the County. Of that number, 74 percent were unsheltered. Of those surveyed, 89 percent said that they would accept permanent affordable housing if it became available tomorrow.