SAN JOSE — The San Jose City Council on Tuesday will consider whether to extend a subsidy for nine high-rise residential projects in the citys downtown, which would cut construction taxes in half and waive fees that go toward affordable housing.
The city has reduced fees for developers of market-rate, residential high-rise projects downtown since 2007, but the incentives are set to expire in June 2021, and unless renewed developers have indicated seven of the projects may not get built.
“The City has recognized that we wont get high-rise apartments built if we dont reduce the citys fees on this uniquely difficult construction type,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said Thursday in a written statement. “We face a straightforward choice: either reduce fees and get housing built, or we sit on our hands and hope for some miracle to solve this housing crisis for us.”
The nine projects that qualify for the subsidies would produce 3,240 market-rate residential units. Two of those projects are under construction — the 630-unit Miro Towers project across from City Hall, and 260-unit The Graduate project near San Jose State University.
The incentive, which applies to buildings 12 stories or higher, currently cuts construction taxes by half and allows developers to delay paying the taxes until after the building opens, rather than when a building permit is issued. It also exempts qualifying developers from paying the $17-per-square-foot affordable housing impact fee and slices park fees by 50 percent.
Labor and affordable housing groups held a press conference in front of City Hall on Thursday to criticize the program as a giveaway to developers to build luxury housing. They held signs highlighting campaign contributions from high-rise developers to Liccardo with messages such as “stop pay to play.”
South Bay Labor Council Executive Director Ben Field said hes “highly skeptical” that developers need the fee waiver, noting the Miro Towers project across from city hall, which would benefit from the extension, is almost complete. The fees should go to important needs that directly benefit residents, he said.
“Were not saying, dont subsidize under any circumstances,” he added. “Were saying [residents] should get money for affordable housing and transportation.”
Waiving affordable housing impact fees for those nine projects amounts would save the developers $54.5 million in fees, according to a March 2019 city report.
Asked if there was a type or level of subsidy he would support, Field did not specify.
An hour after the labor groups press conference, the Silicon Valley Organization held its own to warn that developers would go elsewhere if the city doesnt cut fees, pointing to high construction costs throughout Silicon Valley.
Michael Lane, deputy director of the affordable housing group Silicon Valley at Home, said the subsidy will enable 3,240 units of new housing to come online.
“Our area median income is high, so if we dont provide this type of housing, theyre out there cannibalizing existing housing supply and making it hard for low-income people,” Lane said.
Scott Knies, executive director of the San Jose Downtown Association, said developers applied for loans and financing by relying on the the subsidy to help pencil out their projects.
He accused the coalition of labor and housing groups, Silicon Valley Rising, of politicizing this issue to further an unrelated ballot initiative.
“The ugly insinuation that downtown isnt doing enough in terms of affordable housing, thats hogwash,” Knies said.
A city-commissioned study by Strategic Economics said high construction costs mean typical high-rise developments in downtown San Jose are not financially feasible and would generRead More – Source