Redistributive policy

San Jose Affordable Housing Policy Delayed

Affordable housing is a rare find in Silicon Valley, but a policy could make it more accessible – if it ever comes to city council.

The Community Opportunity to Purchase Act, or COPA, is a policy that would give qualified nonprofits the right to bid on residential property and maintain more affordable housing in the community. The council was due to consider a vote on a local ordinance in March, but it was postponed until October and is now expected to return in early 2023.

Sandy Perry, president of the Affordable Housing Network, which is part of the COPA coalition, said it should be a simple policy. San Francisco and Washington, DC have their own versions of COPA.

“It’s not that complicated. It’s just politically complicated, and it’s an election year,” Perry told San Jose Spotlight.

City Council voted in 2020 to begin exploring COPA as a strategy in its 10-part anti-displacement plan. Developers say allowing community organizations to buy rental properties will limit travel while maintaining affordable housing for existing residents. San Jose has struggled to build affordable housing amid soaring rents and mortgage costs.

There’s opposition from the real estate industry because COPA is interfering with its profit margins, Perry said. Not only could this delay a sale because nonprofits would have the first right to purchase, but it also combats the idea that housing costs will continue to rise.

“It’s a paradigm shift,” Perry said. “It introduces a policy based on what’s good for tenants, people at risk of displacement, people of color and what’s good for those communities. And that’s what’s important.”

San Jose was ranked among the five most expensive cities to rent in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development during the first quarter of 2022. Residents continue to leave the area due to a lack of housing affordable, resulting in a significant drop in school enrolment. Recent studies show that residents are not satisfied with what the city offers.

Advocates, which include groups like SOMOS Mayfair, the Asian Law Alliance and the South Bay Community Land Trust, have rallied behind COPA. They say it prevents displacement and creates a pathway to homeownership for low-income renters, amid a growing housing crisis that is driving many residents out of the area.

Lam Nguyen, deputy chief of staff for council member David Cohen, said COPA has been repeatedly delayed due to the complexity of the issue.

“No one has been able to come up with a good, executable policy,” Nguyen told San Jose Spotlight. “Housing is complex, especially when it involves so many people downtown and potentially students. We need to make sure the policy is correct and will protect people.”

Perry said with rising housing costs and inflation, it’s critical that policies like COPA be implemented immediately. And while postponements are commonplace at city council, COPA has seen more than its fair share of delays.

The policy delay comes as San Jose grapples with an alarming rise in homelessness. The number of homeless people in San Jose has increased by 11% since 2019.

“We need fundamental housing reforms,” Perry said. “We have a problem with how we do real estate here.”

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Copyright © 2022 by Bay City News, Inc. Republication, redistribution, or other reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.