San Jose leaders are upset that they’ve become the affordable housing solution for job-rich Santa Clara.
The City of San Jose has officially opposed a retail/office/housing project next door to Levi’s Stadium in neighboring Santa Clara because it is projected to create 49,000 jobs and just 1,360- housing units. Citywide Santa Clara expects to add only 16,000 housing units over the next 20 years
Obviously those workers won’t be living in Santa Clara. San Jose believes it’ll get the brunt of the cost and problems of trying to house those workers. But as Ella Fitzgerald so eloquently sang, “cry me a river.”
The Northern San Joaquin Valley — Manteca, Tracy, Lathrop, Mountain House, Patterson, Ripon, Modesto, and Stockton specifically — have been the housing solution, affordable and otherwise, for the Bay Area for decades including the City of San Jose.
It’s time to be brutally honest. Affordable housing plans are a farce. The state mandates affordable housing and requires a plan and then puts everything possible in the path of developers to make it impossible to happen.
First and foremost the only surefire way to stabilize or bring the price of housing down is to let an unrestrained market meet the demand. That means builders essentially being able to build as many homes as they can and in much quicker time.
Right now it takes an average of five years to go from raw land to the point a developer can build a home. The primary reason, of course, is the regulatory process.
What makes it all the more rich is the very same people screaming about the lack of affordable housing are often the same ones that demand even tighter regulatory strangleholds on housing whether it is preserving open space, slapping on fees to pay for community amenities or not building any more housing — especially multi-family dwellings or apartments — in their neighborhood.
It goes without saying an affordable housing solution utilizing current strategies ultimately being able to address the problem is as likely as Frank Sinatra being inducted into the Rap Music Hall of Fame.
So what can be done?
The main issue is providing housing options that match up with employment opportunities.
While upper working class and even lower middle class in the Bay Area struggle, they find solutions either with long commutes or gentrifying old and less affluent neighborhoods which sends the lower income households scrambling to find new housing in another community that usually means east of the Altamont Pass.
Perhaps the solution is how the lower paying jobs cities such as Santa Clara are creating are filled.
The project San Jose is opposing in Santa Clara has the potential of creating 49,000 jobs within walking distance of the Altamont Commuter Express station at Great America.
What if Santa Clara addressed their obscene housing/jobs imbalance by requiring future employers over a certain number of workers to fill 80 percent of all jobs that pay 64 percent or less than Santa Clara’s median income of $85,294 — in other words jobs grossing $54,600 year or $25 an hour — with ACE commuters. They would also be required to cover the cost of monthly train passes for such workers.
Back in 2001 when jobs paying $10 an hour at McDonald’s went begging in San Jose when the California minimum wage was $6.25 an hour, one franchisee filled a number of positions with under-employed and unemployed Stockton residents. Commuting wasn’t an issue as the McDonald’s picked up the ACE pass each month.
Commuting four hours a day round trip by rail was a god-send for those that got the jobs as they were making $400 a week as opposed to $250 a week at a minimum wage job in Stockton.
It provided a real increase in the standard of living for lower skilled — sometimes unemployed — residents in Stockton, filled positions Bay Area firms were struggling to find someone to hire and keep for more than a few months based on their need to find a better paying job to survive in the Bay Area, and it addressed the Bay Area housing shortage.
It really isn’t much different than what’s going on now with those employed in the Bay Area with better paying jobs heading into the Northern San Joaquin Valley to buy or rent housing.
It may not directly improve the housing/job imbalance in the Northern San Joaquin Valley but it does solve a Bay Area dilemma while helping to improve the lot of lower income residents on this side of the Altamont who have to struggle to withstand major ripples that the influx of Bay Area home buyers and rentals are sending through the San Joaquin County housing market.
Such an endeavor would make more headway into helping ease the housing crunch on both sides of the Altamont Pass that canned mumble jumble on affordable housing secured with a $200,000 payment to consultants that is then rubber stamped by Sacramento bureaucrats who incredulously proclaim that affordable housing is being addressed.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.