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There’s No Place Like Home – Especially If You Cannot Afford One

There’s No Place Like Home – Especially if you cannot afford one

$255,000. That is the annual household income needed for a family to qualify for the median priced home in San Jose, which is now $1,250,000. A two-bedroom rental in San Jose is now $3,200. To paraphrase a famous Astronaut, “San Jose, we have a problem.” Or, more accurately, “California, we have a problem.”

Sadly, this one didn’t sneak up on us. California’s housing crisis has been 30 years in the making. It won’t be solved overnight. But it won’t be solved at all if we do not take the crisis seriously, and take the vital step of working together on sensible, yet not always easy, solutions.

At the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, for our 335 Member Companies, it will require a bold combination of policies, programs and projects that adopt a holistic approach to our housing crisis.

Policies – We have made multi-billion dollar investments in BART, Caltrain and other fixed-rail transit solutions, yet still often allow land uses around the stations that squander the opportunity for jobs and homes at a density truly worthy of the investment. The Leadership Group is reaching out to the Bay Area’s six fixed-rail transit providers with a simple question – BART, Caltrain, VTA, SF Muni, SMART and ACE – “What is currently located within a half-mile radius of your current and proposed train stations, and what might we accomplish over the next decade, by working with each city, community and citizen’s group, to make the most of these opportunities to provide both homes and jobs, ease traffic, cut emissions and greenhouse gases, and improve our quality of life?” The 112-year old civic group known as SPUR has done incredible research on the increased ridership potential of homes, and even more so – jobs – being located near transit. Let’s build on these opportunities, literally, to improve people’s lives and the sustainability of our communities.

Programs – Last Friday, March 29, our Housing Trust Silicon Valley celebrated its 20th year in finding innovative ways to help families, at all income levels, afford a safe, well-built place to call home. Their holistic approach to serve a spectrum of need – from those who are homeless, to those who need an affordable rental home, to those struggling to purchase their first home – is precisely what we planned for when we created the Housing Trust in 1999. To date, the Housing Trust has secured more than $250 million in voluntary contributions, which has leveraged well over $3 billion in private development, assisting more than 30,000 individuals and families with 17,000 housing opportunities. NetApp is the latest generous employer who has stepped forward with a $10 million investment in the Housing Trust. We will continue seeking others to lead by example.

Projects – Nothing is more time consuming, yet important, than actually advocating for homes that are affordable to individuals and families in our region. Over the past two decades, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group has endorsed and actively advocated for more than 250 affordable home developments throughout our region, including many 100 percent affordable home developments and developments that include an appropriate inclusion of affordable homes in their developments. Each proposal requires numerous hearings before Planning Commissions and City/Town Councils, often against fierce opposition, before a new home development is approved. Well- meaning neighbors often raise legitimate questions about their neighborhoods, which need to be thoughtfully addressed. Yet, the key component is that we address the reasonable issues, replace fiction with fact when the issues are unwarranted, and move forward with quality improvements that enhance quality neighborhoods.

We applaud statewide leaders like including Governor Gavin Newsom, State Senator Scott Wiener, Assemblyman David Chiu, and others, for recognizing that California’s housing crisis has been brewing for 30 years, but who have not been intimidated by the complexity of the challenge we face. We’re also in awe of local leaders, in both the public and private sectors, who are searching for regional solutions that recognize our regional economy. The CASA effort is an important example of citizens rising up in an effort to help others afford to live in the high-cost Bay Area.

Here’s a personal perspective. I have three young children. I love them dearly. I want them to be able to afford a home – whether for rent or for sale – in the same community in which we are raising them. However, I don’t love them so much that I want them to be forced to live in our home forever. We need to recognize that the folks we are forcing out of our region and state are our own children, our own family, friends and co-workers, who simply want a safe, secure and affordable place to call home. Let’s ensure that “home” is here in the Bay Area.

Leading our Housing & Community Development efforts is Nathan Ho, formerly affordable housing policy lead for Eden Housing. You can find him on almost any night of the week at a City or Town Council meeting, serving as the “Voice of the Voiceless,” advocating for homes for families of all income levels. Join him. Nathan can be reached at nho@svlg.org.

 – Carl Guardino, CEO, Silicon Valley Leadership Group | April 1, 2019

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