If we want housing prices to go down, we have to build a lot more homes. In the last 8 years, San Jose exceeded our goal for building market-rate housing yet the city only built 26% of the affordable housing goal.

Fund More Housing
More Homes Benefit Taxpayers
Longevity of Affordable Housing
Inclusionary Housing
Zoning Reforms
Encourage Mass Timber

Details

Fund More Housing: To build an apartment building in San Jose – factoring in how expensive land, labor, government fees, and construction materials are – it can cost nearly $1 million per unit. The best way to ensure affordable housing gets built to address our housing crisis homelessness is to help fund more affordable housing. I plan to do that by advocating for:

More Homes Benefit Taxpayers: It costs much less to build up on existing land than out on new land. That’s because the government has to pay more for new infrastructure in rural areas and travel farther to provide ongoing services there. Building too few homes on a piece of land loses San José taxpayers money. In contrast, when building more homes on a project – at least 40 to 45 homes per acre, which is three to four stories – that generates positive revenue for San Jose. When we allow new development, developers pay more city fees to cover city services, rather than us as taxpayers. More city revenue leads to better city services. 

Longevity of Affordable Housing: For projects receiving San Jose’s Measure E funding, I recommend we raise the number of years the housing will be guaranteed affordable from 55 to 75 or 99 years.

Inclusionary Housing: For decades, we’ve allowed San Jose to be a racially and economically segregated city. But we can change that. Having people from different backgrounds live together in integrated neighborhoods makes our communities more harmonious. Inclusionary housing requires developers building market-rate housing to include affordable homes in the same project or building. Affordable Housing is defined as affordable for residents making 120% or below of our Area Median Income. The high cost of living in our area means that a developer can build “affordable housing” in 2023 in which a household of four people making up to $217,560 can qualify. But $200k isn’t “affordable” for so many people. I support inclusionary housing policies. I also support reforming San José’s policy in the following ways:

  • Get rid of the in-lieu fee that functions as an excuse not to build.
  • Alter the policy to require market-rate housing to include at least 10% affordable housing on-site with market-rate housing.
  • Change the definition of affordable housing to only include homes below 80% of the AMI or require projects building 81-120% of the AMI to include 20% affordable housing on-site.
  • Ensure developers commit to their levels of affordable housing before the Planning Commission and City Council vote. 
  • Lower the minimum threshold in which the ordinance takes effect from 20 units or more to 10 units or more.
  • Eliminate the Communication Hill exception to the policy. 

Zoning Reforms: Reforming San José zoning regulations will open up opportunities for thousands of new homes and better development. Zoning reforms I propose include:

  • Like Mayor Mahan, Councilmember Cohen, and Assemblymember Alex Lee, I oppose reducing the number of homes at the Berryessa Flea Market site from nearly 3,500 homes in mid-rise buildings to 900 townhomes. This lower number of homes isn’t good for San José. It’s especially bad next to VTA’s Berryessa Transit Center and a BART Station, where we need higher densities to ensure higher public transit usage. This mutated development plan is why the City should pass policies for precious land like this that include minimum density requirements.  
  • Many of us love having neighborhood amenities like shops or restaurants on the corner of intersections because they make neighborhoods more walkable and vibrant. But they’re hard to find in San Jose. I suggest we change the zoning of parcels on the corners of streets to allow for up to two-story buildings by right with ground-floor commercial. 
  • Some of our buildings sitting empty aren’t just homes, they’re offices. That’s why I suggest we revise the City’s General Plan to reduce the permitting required for the conversion of office buildings to residential. 
  • There are new types of housing that emphasize housing that is owned by multiple people or nonprofits. Examples include co-housing and community land trusts. The City should incentivize co-housing models/developments by prioritizing their processing and making them easier to build in our code.
  • Extend impact fees to developers who build single-family homes to fund community benefits like parks. Increase those fees proportionally higher for more expensive homes and teardowns. 

Encourage Mass Timber: Part of what makes taller buildings above seven stories expensive is they traditionally require steel, which is more expensive than wood. Modular housing is one new construction method that is improving the odds of construction commencing and getting completed quicker. An emergent method called mass timber also has the potential to upend these conventions and limitations. Benefits of mass timber include:

In Oakland, a Bay Area developer called oWow is using mass timber to build a 19-story building. And they constructed 16 stories in only 61 days. This kind of innovation and efficiency is what we need in San Jose. San José doesn’t have a single mass timber project. I’ve been encouraging oWow to build in San Jose. Yet the pace of change isn’t fast enough. That’s why I promise an incentive program for any developer that commits to mass timber construction in projects between 9 and 30 stories by January 1, 2027.