SAN JOSE IS SHOW­ING REST OF THE STATE HOW TO TACKLE AF­FORD­ABLE HOUS­ING

The Tribune (SLO) - - Sports - BY THE SAN JOSE MER­CURY NEWS

San Jose is show­ing the way on fight­ing home­less­ness.

The City Coun­cil on Tues­day unan­i­mously ap­proved what na­tional hous­ing ex­perts be­lieve is a first-in-then­ation ef­fort, de­vot­ing 45 per­cent of its avail­able af­ford­able-hous­ing fund­ing to­ward ex­tremely low-in­come res­i­dents who are most at risk of be­com­ing home­less. The move builds on Santa Clara County’s 2016 Mea­sure A bond that al­lo­cates $ 700 mil­lion for ex­tremely low-in­come hous­ing.

Gov. Gavin New­som should jump on board and of­fer ad­di­tional state al­lo­ca­tions for cities pro­vid­ing more af­ford­able hous­ing funds for their low­est-in­come res­i­dents.

But it will take more — a lot more — to solve home­less­ness.

A Bay Area Coun­cil re­port re­leased last week out­lines the ex­tent of the prob­lem. Call­ing the chal­lenge daunt­ing is an un­der­state­ment.

The re­port es­ti­mates that it would cost

$ 12.7 bil­lion to per­ma­nently house the Bay Area’s 28,000 home­less res­i­dents. Pro­vid­ing nec­es­sary ser­vices to those res­i­dents would cost an ad­di­tional $350 mil­lion a year, or $3.5 bil­lion over 10 years. The Bay Area Coun­cil rec­om­mends a re­gional ap­proach to the is­sue, ar­gu­ing that would be more ef­fi­cient than the patch­work of city, county and non-profit agen­cies that cur­rently lack the abil­ity to work to­gether.

It’s a good idea. But the chal­lenge of any re­gional ef­fort will be im­mense: find­ing ad­di­tional fund­ing for hous­ing ex­tremely low in­come res­i­dents. The sit­u­a­tion will only get worse un­less all par­ties — busi­ness, tax­pay­ers and gov­ern­ment — con­trib­ute their fair share to solve a prob­lem of this mag­ni­tude.

Jen­nifer Lov­ing of Des­ti­na­tion Home notes that four times as many peo­ple are en­ter­ing the sys­tem than leav­ing every month. Stop­gap mea­sures aren’t enough. A sys­temic ap­proach is the only an­swer.

Ex­tremely low-in­come fam­i­lies are those, in gen­eral, who make roughly $35,000 a year, or less than 30 per­cent of the area’s me­dian in­come. Nearly 75 per­cent of these res­i­dents spend more than half of their in­come on rent. Any un­ex­pected event — an ill­ness, loss of job or an emergency sit­u­a­tion — can put them out of their homes and on the street.

The re­sult­ing costs to tax­pay­ers are im­mense. A 2016 study by Des­ti­na­tion Home cal­cu­lated the pub­lic cost to Santa Clara County at $520 mil­lion a year for med­i­cal care, incarceration and other in­ter­ac­tions with pub­lic ser­vices.

And that’s not count­ing the pub­lic strain cre­ated by the home­less on pub­lic streets and neigh­bor­hoods camps.

San Jose will need to do more if it wants to end what should be viewed as a pub­lic dis­grace. At present, San Jose has a deficit of more than 35,000 rental units that are con­sid­ered af­ford­able and avail­able for ex­tremely low in­come res­i­dents. Vot­ers in November failed to pass Mea­sure V, the $450 mil­lion bond for af­ford­able hous­ing, by a nar­row mar­gin.

The city should con­sider an­other mea­sure in 2020 while also con­tin­u­ing to seek ad­di­tional fund­ing from busi­nesses and foun­da­tions.

Solv­ing the state’s home­less prob­lem will re­quire a sus­tained ef­fort over many years. The San Jose City Coun­cil’s com­mit­ment to help­ing its most vul­ner­a­ble res­i­dents rep­re­sents an im­por­tant step for­ward.

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