San José Mayor Sam Liccardo on Monday joined U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia L. Fudge at a virtual event to launch a new federal initiative to address homelessness crisis.
Fudge serves as chair of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. House America is a national partnership in which the homelessness council and HUD and invite mayors, county leaders, Tribal nation leaders, and governors to use the money from the American Rescue Plan to address the crisis of homelessness by immediately re-housing and building additional housing for people experiencing homelessness.
“San José is meeting the pressing urgency of the homelessness crisis by leveraging federal grants and local ballot measure funding into rapidly built, livable homes for the previously unhoused,” said Liccardo in a statement. “We must act swiftly and aggressively to create safe spaces for our most vulnerable residents. We're ahead of the curve in delivering more housing solutions in the coming year thanks to extraordinary coordination between local, state, and federal partners— but we have more to do. ”
House America is a federal response to the crisis of homelessness, In March, HUD released its 2020 Annual Homeless Assessment Report Part 1 to Congress, which found that more than 580,000 people experienced homelessness in the United States on a single night in January 2020, before the pandemic. COVID-19 has created greater urgency to address homelessness, given the heightened risks faced by people experiencing homelessnes, according to the report. At the same time, COVID-19 has slowed re-housing activities due to capacity issues and impacts on rental market vacancies.
Through the American Rescue Plan, San José received 369 emergency housing vouchers and $3,221,675 in HOME Investment Partnerships grants to help more residents obtain the safety of a stable home.
In 2020, 4,886 individuals were moved into permanent supportive housing in Santa Clara County. However, for every person permanently housed in Santa Clara County, two more fall into homelessness or need housing assistance, the city reported.
The City of San José said it will leverage federal emergency housing vouchers, HOME funding, and County Measure A funds to deliver 1,134 re-housing units, 683 bridge transitional units, and 861 newly-built permanent homes over the next year.
As a member of House America, Liccardo and San José will partner with HUD to use these American Rescue Plan resources to re-house households experiencing homelessness through a Housing First approach, and to add new units of affordable housing into the development pipeline by Dec. 31, 2022.
PART I: Grosso Modo
Let’s keep in mind the general and approximate quantitative framework within which housing must be addressed in San Jose. The houseless headcount in Santa Clara County was nearly 10,000 at last count in early-2019 with about 6,000 of the houseless living in San Jose at the time of the survey. (https://osh.sccgov1.acsitefactory.com/sites/g/files/exjcpb671/files/2019%20SCC%20Homeless%20Census%20and%20Survey%20Report.pdf). These are the tip of the iceberg, as there are much larger numbers of people who live in conditions that could propel them into houselessnes.
I am referring to the housing-burdened. These are people living in households who pay more than 30% of their incomes for housing (https://oehha.ca.gov/calenviroscreen/indicator/housing-burden). Nearly one-third of households in owner-occupied housing and almost 45% of households in rented housing in the Valley are estimated to be housing burdened (https://siliconvalleyindicators.org/data/place/housing/ housing-affordability/housing-burden-percent-of-households-with-housing-costs-greater-than-30-of-income/). That translates into about 700,000 people in Santa Clara County (https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/santaclaracountycalifornia/HSG010219)–70 times more than the estimated number of houseless. As San Jose accounts for half the population of the county, we can assume that about half the housing-burdened live in San Jose, that is, roughly 350,000 people–more than 50 times the estimated number of houseless on San Jose’s streets at the beginning of 2019.
The vast majority of us work and live paycheck-to-paycheck (https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/number-of-americans-living-paycheck-to-paycheck-on-decline-despite-pandemic-301134207.html). Any interruption in employment, or any unexpected expenditures, e.g. an illness or a major car repair, can push the housing-burdened into household crises of insufficiency and, potentially, into the abyss houselessness. Thus, as the above article intimates, the problem of houselessness grows faster than the remedies the public sector provides to address the crisis. Given the above, a prudent planning assumption would be that any economic downturn or pending evictions induced by the pandemic’s fallout, could exacerbate the houseless problem in short order and by a considerable amount.
Because throwing money at this problem has worked great so far.
It has worked. Funding has made a huge difference, but we’ve picked the low-hanging fruit. The people who can be helped with relatively low funding. The chronic homeless are a much bigger challenge. Add those newly pushed into homelessness by the pandemic.
PART II: Più Precisamente
A more accurate quantitative planning framework for addressing houselessness in Santa Clara County would focus on the severely housing-burdened, those households who spend more than 50% of their income on housing. It is that segment of our community that is most in danger of becoming houseless. To be even more precise, the risks for renters is greater than for owners who occupy their residence as the latter are far more likely to have an equity cushion that they could realize if a sale of their residence became necessary. What are the approximate numbers of persons living in severely housing-burdened renter households in Santa Clara County and in San Jose?
There were an estimated 290,000 renter-occupied housing units in the County in 2019, about 44% of all occupied housing units that year. The average household size in the County was estimated at 2.95 persons. Thus, there were approximately, 856,000 people living in renter households that year. It is estimated that 22% of renter households are severely burdened, or about 63,800 households consisting of about 188,250 persons. San Jose’s proportionate share of these would be more than 94,000 persons, more than 15 times the number of houseless estimated to be living on city streets in 2019 (see https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/santaclaracountycalifornia/PST045219; https://chpc.net/housingneeds/?view=37.405074,-119.26758,5&county=Santa+Clara&group=housingneed&chart=shortfall|current,cost-burden|current,cost-burden-re|current,homelessness,historical-rents,vacancy,asking-rents|2021,budgets|2021,funding|current,state-funding,lihtc|2010:2020:historical,rhna-progress,multifamily-production).
In total, the houseless in San Jose and those living on the margins of houselessness in 2019 could conservatively be estimated at about 100,000 persons, about 1 in 10 city residents. For each houseless person, there are 15 residents whose housing situation is financially precarious. City leaders and planners who are serious about addressing both houselessness and affordability would conclude that the city has about 100,000 housing units too few and would set out to lead the effort to secure the resources to systematically and robustly expand housing production. While the additional federal fiscal resources accruing to state, county and city governments have accelerated housing acquisition and production in the past year or so, with more in the pipeline, in the overall picture, the efforts outlined in the above report fall well short of the scale of the problem. They are considerably less than my assessment here and even below those of the California Housing Partnership. The latter estimated back in 2015 that the housing needs of very low income renter residents were about 67,500 units on a County-wide basis (see https://www.sccgov.org/sites/scc/Documents/FAQs-from-OCT-4-BOS-Revised-Footnoted.pdf).
There’s the old proverb “If you give a man a fish, he eats for a day, but if you teach him to fish, he eats for a lifetime”. But it doesn’t work in this story because you are just giving away a free property with no incentive for the person receiving it to earn the money to pay for it or maintain it for a value to be gained upon its resale.. How well will it be kept if so? One only needs to look at the many tent setups locally to see that answer. Just giving away nice things to anyone is like spoiling a child, they will ask for more and more and won’t take care of what they were given. These people need to do something (like work) of value to gain ownership equity or pay back the original cost so that if and when they pull themselves out of their situation, they “pay it forward” to the next needy homeless person. Otherwise, and what has been the norm for decades, we just “push the problem down the tracks”.
Econoclast you crack me up with your self importance.
Always with the Roman Numerals.
Who do you think you are,the Super Bowl?
I do love seeing the pictures of dumb and dumber together. Don’t worry, despite previously tossing a billion dollars down the toilet in Santa Clara County without producing meaningful new homes for the homeless it will be different this time. Another $3.2 million will also produce zero new homes. But what great photo ops for the twindemic dummies.