By B. Sakura Cannestra. San Jose Spotlight.
Milpitas needs to find ways to build more affordable housing and preserve what it already has.
That's according to housing advocates and policymakers who discussed the city's affordable housing stock on a panel Thursday hosted by San José Spotlight. The state requires Milpitas to add 6,713 homes by 2031, and more than half will be below market rate, a requirement the city has struggled to meet in the past. All panelists agreed that financing is the biggest obstacle to building more affordable housing in Milpitas and the greater Silicon Valley region.
“At the end of the day, we can try to find political solutions, we can modify specific plans and all that, but it all comes down to money,” said Milpitas Councilman Anthony Phan. “That will be the most important factor for the developer (and) for the city.”
Phan spoke alongside other panelists, including Huascar Castro, director of housing and transportation policy at Working Partnerships USA, and Silicon Valley at Home policy director Mathew Reed. The Santa Clara County Housing Authority sponsored the event.
Money to support housing development comes from a variety of sources, including grants and county and state budget allocations. Reed stressed the importance of local funding, which he said is a challenge everywhere. He said cities that change zoning restrictions can decrease the resources needed to build affordable housing.
“There are ways to create cost savings that allow us to leverage things that aren't just money to make things more attractive,” Reed said.
Another source of funding is through various partnerships to meet certain needs, including working with businesses to develop housing to support a certain workforce or working with the county or state to secure funding avenues.
One of those partners is the Milpitas Unified School District. Phan spoke about a development project at 1355 California Circle that is expected to provide 206 homes, most of which will be housing for the school district's workforce.
About 40 percent of Milpitas renters spend more than a third of their income on rent, meaning they are rent burdened. Castro said looking at tenant protections will be important for the city to prevent vulnerable residents from being displaced or becoming homeless.
Milpitas has 274 homeless residents according to the county's 2022 point-in-time count, which is considered an undercount. The city has historically faced criticism for a lack of support for people experiencing homelessness.
“There is a lot of room for Milpitas to do more for renters, who make up a significant number of Milpitas residents,” Castro said.
Other partnerships could preserve existing affordable housing or support tenants, as Castro said the city could partner with nonprofits to maintain existing affordable housing.
Reed added that an example of affordable housing preservation has been occurring around Sunnyhills Apartments. The complex offers 149 subsidized apartments, which he said represent about 15 percent of the city's affordable housing stock. Developer JMK Investments renewed its contract with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development earlier this year.
“The overall point is that we have very few homes that people can afford and we are at risk of losing the ones we have,” Reed said.
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