Letter: Measure A protects the public interest

In November 2016, Santa Clara County residents took a bold step in adopting Measure A, a historic investment in housing for our most vulnerable residents. And as the county has begun implementing Measure A, the taxpayers are getting what they were promised—and more.

In just over two years, the county has already invested more than $234 million in 19 housing developments that will collectively renovate over 480 existing apartments and add over 1,430 new deed-restricted and affordable apartments. Six developments are already under construction, four of which are on pace to open this year (including two new affordable developments in Gilroy and Morgan Hill). All told, we’re ahead of schedule on delivering the 4,800 new units that will be constructed through the Measure A bond.

In addition, low- and moderate-income residents throughout Santa Clara County can now apply for down payment assistance through the new bond-funded Empower Homebuyers program, which will help hundreds of families and individuals purchase their first home.

Put simply, Measure A is delivering results and having a catalytic impact on affordable housing here in Santa Clara County. In fact, a recent progress report from the county found that every Measure A dollar spent so far has secured $2.78 in outside investments.

Unfortunately, recent criticisms of Measure A missed the mark and exclude some important context. So before we start challenging the efficacy of Measure A, it’s worth considering the following points:

• Securing public ownership of affordable housing sites is both fiscally responsible and in the public interest. Despite claims to the contrary, seeking ownership of the land does not increase the cost to the taxpayers, as land acquisition is always a part of the total development costs that must be financed. This arrangement just ensures the public secures an asset for the millions in taxpayer dollars being invested in the development. It also ensures that the public can determine how the site is used after the initial affordability covenant expires.

• Project-based vouchers provide the greatest value when allocated to supportive and extremely low-income housing, which require more operational support than other types of affordable housing. Given that we don’t have nearly enough vouchers to meet the need in our community, we must allocate them where they can do the most good and provide a reduced rent burden for our lowest income residents.

• While the priority has been appropriately placed on building more supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness, Measure A is also helping a broader array of families and individuals in need. To date, Measure A has funded the construction or rehabilitation of 673 affordable apartments across three different income levels, representing approximately 40 percent of the total Measure A-funded units.

• Finally, Measure A already includes significant flexibility to make projects work. For example, the county did not insist on land ownership for three projects: The Veranda, Villas on the Park and Evans Lane. For the latter two, the City of San Jose will retain ownership of the land.  Furthermore, the funding criteria already allows for developers to mix and match different unit types within a development, and the vast majority of projects approved to date will serve a variety of populations.

While Measure A’s carefully crafted guidelines might not work for every project, they do ensure that these new developments meet the needs of our community’s most vulnerable households.

So, before we begin thinking about changing how we use our Measure A funds, let’s make sure we’re focused on protecting the public’s interest and the people in our community who need our help the most.

Jennifer Loving, president of Destination: Home

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