SAN JOSE — The city of San Jose is about to launch a feasibility study about putting a $250,000 million housing and homelessness bond on the ballot next year. The far-reaching measure would be aimed directly at offering a range of help to public servants, destitute veterans, the fresh influx of high tech workers as well as the abject homeless population.
“We have emerged from the great recession and we’ve seen the toll it took on our families and neighbors, many of them living out on the streets and along creeks,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. “We can do more and this will be a critical path for us to steer hundreds of million dollars to tackle homelessness in a way we have not ever done before.”
While some of the initiative will be aimed at helping typical homeless people, Liccardo said it’s ultimate focus will be better determined following scientific polling that will begin almost immediately to determine the level of interest by the public to help. This week, San Francisco voters passed Prop A — a $310,000 program for low and middle income housing.
“Big problems need big solutions,” said Jennifer Loving, executive director of Destination Home in San Jose, “and with this level of funding something significantly good can happen. This is fantastic.”
City officials expect the polling to measure the public’s reaction and interest in such questions as how much to prioritize homeless vets and also possible rental assistance and “first-time-buyer” programs for teachers. The polling may also unearth an interest in such programs for police officers and fire fighters. The questions will also look into the feasibility and degree of construction of housing aimed at homeless people and families.
“There is bottomless pit of need,” said Liccardo. “We want to understand, through polling the highest priority of voters and figure out the key elements that will part of what we do going forward.”
If the polling indicates the voters are game, the mayor said they will go on and have public community meetings and hearings to specify and clarify how best to spend such money. Then, the city council, by March, will vote for the June ballot – or by August will vote for the November 2016 vote.
The numbers are still rough estimates, but the calculations are loosely based on voters agreeing to pay $9.95 per $100,000 in estimated real estate value. (A taxpayer with a $1 million house would pay roughly $100). A yes vote would generate $258 million to tackle one of the prickliest social problems of our time.
“This is a long term problem and it’s growing more acute as rents and home prices keep going up,” said Garrick Percival, associate professor of political science at San Jose State University. “San Jose has been trying to find solutions to housing and raising taxes is always difficult in a city that already had revenue problems. If this makes it to the ballot, it wins if voters accept more debt. The problem is too big for any one effort, but this does put a dent in it.”
While the program has a wide focus, Loving did express one concern: that with so many being served, there is a chance that the lowest-rung dwellers — the homeless — might end up getting the fewest services, the least amount of money aimed their way.
“We need to be intentional and deliberate to ensure housing for our most vulnerable residents,” said Loving. “Those are special types of housing units and they take special partnerships with developers to get them built just right.”
Still, she enthused, “teachers and high-tech workers need affordable houses too.”
“All housing is good, more housing is better,” Loving said. “This is a great.”