In a 2020 tweet – which could really have been a solid byte from any platform in the last century – a former US president claimed that “people living their suburban lifestyle dream would no longer be bothered or financially hurt by low incomes Housing built in your neighborhood. “
It wasn’t a huge shock at the time, sadly, and given the source, but in many ways it has perfectly summed up generations of housing discrimination in one pithy bunch with a decent number of characters. Far from the laudable goals of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 to create diverse, inclusive communities for all, we have done, by and large, too much over the years to limit the options where our poorest neighbors can live.
Fortunately, there is now a real chance to start over. In the coming months, the City of San Jose will be introducing an Affordable Housing Policy designed to help the city promote fair housing in accordance with federal and California fair housing laws while creating new affordable housing options across the community .
If all goes well, this policy should provide San Jose with a guide to identify areas with higher opportunities in the city for affordable housing and provide strong incentives, funding, and flexibility to develop more of these homes in locations which historically the door has simply not opened. I was open. The creation of affordable housing in such areas offers an opportunity both to prevent further segregation and concentration of poverty and to open access to areas rich in educational and economic resources.
What this policy shouldn’t be, however, is another way to say no, not here, not now. The truth is, we need more affordable housing everywhere. With the city’s lack of buildable residential land, one of the most competitive housing markets ever, and runaway rents, we need to create more availability, not less.
We also need to make sure that areas that are subject to displacement are not taken out of this equation. These neighborhoods, often color communities, are not very often classified as “high resource” but have residents who need options to avoid evictions, to stay in the places where they raised their families, built their professions, and all of them Have lived all their lives. These places also require much more investment in their schools, roads, and parks so life in high resource areas can become a reality for everyone.
The good news is that this affordable siting policy, with the right direction from our elected leaders, can actually help us rebuild better.
For high-opportunity areas where affordable housing is encouraged, we need to make more land available for higher-density development. And we need to streamline the eligibility process at these designated locations so that the opposition doesn’t harm the good of derailing amazing places to live for people who have been denied the experience for far too long. The city should make a determined commitment to making living here as easy as possible and removing every roadblock, excuse, and obstacle out of the way.
For communities with fewer resources, affordable housing could and should be built whenever possible. As indicated in the proposed policy, this housing should be developed in coordination with plans to finance all other assets necessary to improve the quality of life of residents. And as for the people who live there, work to address eviction preferences in affordable housing units must continue to be a top priority for the city so that at least some of the new homes help people stay in the places you know and have loved for years.
Right now it’s too difficult to find decent place to live in San Jose. Policies that encourage more affordable housing in more places and deep investment to improve communities and create opportunities is the only way forward.
Without it, we’re just looking at a map with no direction home.
Ray Bramson, a columnist for San José Spotlight, is the chief operating officer of Destination: Home, a nonprofit that works to end homelessness in Silicon Valley. His columns appear every second Monday of the month. Contact Ray at [email protected] or follow @rbramson on Twitter.