Google comes to downtown San Jose and brings 4,000 homes with it. But ensuring that a quarter of this housing is affordable will be difficult.

“The good thing about Google’s model is that they don’t just give the city money,” Mathew Reed, housing policy manager at Silicon Valley at home, told the San José Spotlight. “They’ve actually made sure there will be room for this accommodation in the plan.”

On May 25, San Jose City Council approved Google’s 80-acre Downtown West project, in addition to the Diridon Affordable Housing Implementation Plan, which introduced more than a dozen recommendations for developing denser housing in the Diridon station district. This plan will support the construction of up to 13,519 additional residences.

The city and Google will rely primarily on the Diridon plan to guide affordable housing policy in this part of downtown. According to a presentation from the city, the plan aims to present a “fair” and “accessible” approach by increasing walking and cycling opportunities, as well as opening up housing to more low-income applicants.

“I like to think of housing as the core of a fair development plan,” Jackie Morales-Ferrand, the city’s housing director, said at last week’s council meeting. “Having a home or being able to stay in your home is the key to ensuring the development of our residents. “

A look at the land uses proposed by Google for its massive development in downtown San Jose. Image courtesy of Google.

The plan is inspired by a city-wide residential anti-displacement strategy approved last September using what the city calls its “3P strategy”: production, preservation and protection of current and future affordable housing developments. .

Production will prioritize construction of affordable units through public and private contributions, preservation will permanently designate existing low and moderate income housing for affordability and protection will prevent displacement of current tenants.

Some of the specific elements of the plan require future board approval.

Google has offered the city four plots of land to build about 800 affordable housing units and will pay approximately $ 87 million in business link fees, a per square foot charge on office and industrial buildings to fund affordable housing.

As part of its deal with the city, Google has committed $ 1 billion through a community stabilization fund, part of which will be used for city protection and preservation strategies.

The company also agreed to donate $ 200 million in community benefits, which has been praised by unions and businesses. About $ 155 million of this fund will go towards affordable housing initiatives, skills training and homelessness prevention, one of the largest such deals between a tech company and the city.

Much on the proposed Google Downtown West site in San Jose. Photo by Lloyd Alaban.

While labor groups, business groups, nonprofit housing organizations and the vast majority of San Joseans people polled in a Silicon Valley Leadership Group survey support the Downtown West project, some activists, such as Santa Clara County Affordable Housing Network President Sandy Perry still opposes the plan.

“Google has the ability to fix our roaming problem,” Perry told the San José Spotlight. “I’m not saying they should do it alone… but there’s no excuse for having that kind of money next to that kind of misery and destruction and pain.”

According to the latest Santa Clara County Homelessness Census released in 2019, 6,172 homeless people live in San Jose, an increase of 1,822 from 2017. The survey identified 9,706 homeless residents across the country. the county, against 7,394 individuals two years ago.

Perry fears that even with Google’s 4,000 units, that’s not enough for the influx of 25,000 workers who will want to live in the area. Instead, he said, the lack of housing to meet demand will only make the crisis worse.

The city is not looking to touch any existing low-income housing in the Diridon area and also seeks to keep the same number of deed-restricted units (houses reserved for low- and moderate-income people) until 2040.

City officials are also looking to expand tenant protection, including a rule requiring landlords to have reasonable grounds for eviction, called just cause evictions.

Google is set to transfer land to the city for one of its affordable housing development projects and will also provide an additional $ 3 million over the next month.

Officials are expected to come back with a work plan on how to implement affordable housing in the fall.

“The demand for affordable housing is going to be significant,” Reed said. “It won’t be cheap to build in the train station area (Diridon)… It will take some work to put all the pieces together, but we hope things will be in place to live up to the commitment to affordable housing underway before. “

Contact Lloyd Alaban at [email protected] or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter.

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