Affordable Housing Week offers hope, reminder of the work ahead

San Francisco native Julie Soeganda had a good life: a husband who worked as a line cook, four children, a stable job as a library researcher with a law firm in San Francisco and an apartment they could afford in Daly City. That all changed when she was let go from her job of 11 years with no notice.

Everyone knows someone in the Bay Area who has been abruptly laid off, and tried to find another job in a competitive environment. Many families are one paycheck away from disaster, and that’s what happened to Julie and her children. After a year of job searching and unemployment they could no longer afford the in-law unit they were renting, and became homeless.

–  Excerpt from HEART of San Mateo County

 

This May, Bay Area counties are celebrating Affordable Housing Week with tours of new developments, first-time homebuyer workshops, and panel discussions on funding solutions for the dearth of affordable homes in the region. In San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, this is an opportunity to draw attention to the cold hard truth that in the shadows of the successes of Google, Facebook, and Apple, there is another reality playing out—families living in poverty who are forced to crowd into tiny apartments, sleep in their cars, work multiple jobs, or leave the area for good.

The Bay Area is losing one of the things that makes this such a great place to live: our diverse workforce.

Julie and her family “won the lottery” to be able to rent a 3-bedroom apartment at 636 El Camino Real. MidPen Housing developed these new affordable homes for families in South San Francisco and showcased the finished project on May 10. Over 2,000 people applied for 108 units, and Julie still can’t believe her family was chosen. But she worries for the other families who are still searching for a safe, affordable place to live. (Watch the story of Julie and 636 El Camino Real)

Silicon Valley is adding jobs faster than it has in over a decade, but not homes. As new engineers, programmers, and scientists fill positions, other jobs are created in the process—jobs like gardeners, preschool teachers, baristas, and nurses. In fact, two-thirds of the jobs coming to Silicon Valley pay less than $50,000. Yet rents for 1-bedroom apartments near transit cost upwards of $1,800/month. In Mountain View, a 540-square foot studio at the new San Antonio complex on El Camino Real rents for $2,570/month. How many teachers do you know can afford that?

 

Seven reasons to be hopeful

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the enormity and severity of the crisis before us, but many smart, dedicated people are working on solutions. Here are seven reasons to feel optimistic:

  1. SB 391 – Also known as the California Homes and Jobs Act, this bill has broad support from business, labor, environmental, and development groups. It establishes an ongoing funding stream for building 10,000 affordable homes each year, creating approximately 29,000 jobs annually as a result.
  2. AB 1229 – This bill would re-authorize cities and counties to adopt ordinances with inclusionary rental housing requirements for lower income households. AB 1229 overturns the 2009 Palmer/Sixth Street Properties L.P. v. City of Los Angeles appellate court decision. (Find out more)
  3. AB 431 – Greenbelt Alliance co-sponsors this bill, which seeks to cover the funding shortfall for sustainable communities. It does so by allowing transportation planning agencies to place a measure before voters in multiple counties to fund transportation, affordable homes, parks, and open space. (Find out more)
  4. RDA Boomerang Funds – Foster City, San Mateo, and the County of San Mateo have taken the bold step of re-allocating funds formerly meant for redevelopment agencies towards the creation of more low and moderate income homes. Momentum is building for Santa Clara County and other jurisdictions to follow suit. (Find out more)
  5. Google – The latest investor in low-income housing tax credits, Google has been instrumental in getting several affordable housing projects off the ground, such as Fair Oaks Plaza—a 124-unit senior housing development in Sunnyvale. (Find out more)
  6. The Housing Endowment and Regional Trust of San Mateo County (HEART) – Locally, HEART raises funds from public and private sources to meet critical housing needs. They have invested $8.8 million to fund over 800 affordable homes, including the Village at the Crossing in San Bruno.
  7. New affordable housing projects have recently been completed or are breaking ground, including ROEM’s Franklin Street Family Apartments in Mountain View, Habitat for Humanity’s project at 7555 Mission Street in Daly City, and MidPen Housing’s award-winning development in South San Francisco.

 

Silicon Valley is leading the economic recovery in California and in many ways, the nation. As new jobs are created and high-rise condos are built in desirable locations near transit, it’s critical that we do our best as a region to ensure we are not leaving anyone behind. A thriving Bay Area depends on those who live and work here having access to safe, attractive, affordable homes. That means everyone—teachers, engineers, paramedics, social workers, students, and on and on. Affordable Housing Week reminds us that we have some way to go, but that there are solutions on the table. So let’s work together to make things better.

 

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