Yesterday, the City of San Jose concluded its months-long budget process by adopting a new fiscal year budget that preserves desperately-needed dollars for affordable housing – including roughly $75 million for a new Affordable Housing NOFA – while also continuing to invest in new shelter models, homelessness prevention and other key housing and homelessness initiatives.
When we started this budget process, we were facing the prospect of a drastic shift in affordable housing funds that would have killed San Jose’s affordable housing pipeline.
We’re telling you all about this today because the debate that just unfolded in San Jose represents a problematic shift playing out around the country, pitting investments in interim interventions like shelters, against the long-term homelessness solution of affordable housing, when really, we must fund both to have an impact.
All along, we have advocated for a balanced approach and we are grateful to the Mayor and City Council for voting in support of this final budget – and in particular to Councilmembers Davis, Torres and Ortiz, and Councilmembers Cohen and Jimenez, for authoring the proposals that ultimately shaped the final vote. Thank you for your leadership.
We also want to thank the HUNDREDS of community organizations, non-profit partners, subject-matter experts and neighborhood leaders who weighed-in during this process.
Because SO MANY OF YOU stood up and made your voices heard, the City of San Jose has adopted a budget that allows our community to continue expanding affordable housing, temporary shelter, and several other key housing programs.
Why We Must Keep Building Affordable Housing Alongside Shelter
As one of the earliest endorsers of the Community Plan to End Homelessness, we have been vocal supporters of the goal to double temporary housing and shelter options countywide. We’ve also directly invested in two interim projects (Willow Glen Studios and Guadalupe Gardens).
However, we also know that shelter alone will not end homelessness.
Our shared interest in expanding shelter options will only work if we keep building more affordable housing. That’s because, in order for these shelters to truly offer an ‘interim’ stay, we need to have viable housing options for the people staying there – and the vast majority of them will need assistance to find and sustain permanent housing.
That’s precisely what we’ve seen since opening these new interim shelter sites. Last year, 86% of the people moving from “interim housing” into permanent housing did so with the assistance of a subsidized housing program/unit (and that would not have been possible if we had not been concurrently investing in both affordable housing and shelter).
If we don’t keep expanding affordable housing options, we risk seeing peoples’ stay in these ‘interim’ sites extended indefinitely and stuck in a cycle of homelessness. And it creates a log-jam that will prevent us from bringing more people off the streets – meaning our community won’t see the results they’re expecting.
Understanding the Costs of Housing & Shelter
One of the key issues that emerged during the budget process has been a debate over the costs of interim shelter vs. permanent affordable housing. A pair of recent analyses have shown these new shelter models carry significant long-term operating costs – making the comparison between housing and shelter much more nuanced than proponents are claiming:
- “Interim housing in San Jose might be cheap at first, but long-term costs could quickly surge” – The Mercury News, June 4, 2023
- “San Jose’s housing plan projected to be more costly” – San Jose Spotlight, June 12, 2023
Thankfully, the City is beginning to confront the ongoing operating costs of expanding interim shelter sites and we appreciate the recommendation from Councilmembers Davis, Torres and Ortiz to develop a long-term plan for funding these ongoing operational costs. This will be critically-important to our efforts to ensure that we can continue expanding BOTH shelter and affordable housing in our community, and we look forward to engaging in this conversation in the year ahead.
While we’re grateful for where we landed, it’s disappointing to see how this debate played out over the past several months. We know that the path to ending homelessness starts with collaboration and a focus on solutions, not rhetoric that pits one strategy against another.
Now more than ever, we must continue to follow the thoughtful, strategic, and evidence-based approach to addressing our homelessness crisis that we have already endorsed through our Community Plan. And as we emerge from this current debate, we all must find a way to do better and keep working together.
We, at Destination: Home, remain committed to working with our entire community to advance our collective goal to end homelessness in Silicon Valley.