Funding for affordable housing has plummeted 63 percent in California’s Santa Clara County since 2008, according to a new report.

This dramatic decline is attributed to the demise of local redevelopment agencies (RDAs), which provided key funding for affordable housing, as well as severe cuts to federal programs.

“Those of us in the industry felt it was bad, but nobody was able to put a handle on how much was lost,” says Kevin Zwick, CEO of Housing Trust Silicon Valley.

Zwick’s organization and the Cities Association of Santa Clara County teamed to produce a white paper on the state of affordable housing in the county and identify strategies for cities to rebuild their funding capacity.

According to the report, local jurisdictions had about $47.3 million for affordable housing this year compared to $126.2 million in 2008.

The level of funding available five years ago could support the development of 840 units of affordable housing per year. In comparison, the $47 million available this year can support just 313 units of housing a year, assuming $150,000 subsidy cost per unit.

That falls far short of the area’s immense housing needs.

Every eight years, the Association of Bay Area Governments develops a Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA). The recently finalized 2014-2022 RHNA determines a total need of 58,836 housing units for Santa Clara County. That number includes 16,158 units for very low-income households and 9,542 units needed for low-income households.


To meet the RHNA goals for very low-income housing, an additional $222 million is needed, according to the report.

“We didn’t just want to say here’s how much money we had five years and here’s what we have today,” says Zwick.

It was important to also identify strategies that local jurisdictions can deploy to rebuild their affordable housing capacity.

A good first step is “boomerang funds,” says Zwick. These are former redevelopment agency funds that return to the county as unrestricted general funds. Nearby San Mateo County approved the allocation of $13.4 million in unrestricted funds for affordable housing. A large percentage of the money will go to the development of affordable rental housing in former RDA cities.

Santa Clara County has also pledged part of its revenue for affordable housing. It has called for cities to dedicate their own boomerang funds as matching dollars for affordable housing.

Impact fees, which are fees charged to developers to mitigate the projected impacts of their new developments on the need for affordable housing, are another potential funding source. San Jose and Sunnyvale, the two biggest cities in the county, are studying the possibility of creating an impact fee, says Zwick.

His organization is also doing its part. Housing Trust Silicon Valley’s efforts include providing loans to affordable housing developers. About two years ago, it became a Community Development Financial Institution to broaden its scope.

Statewide, advocates are also pushing for the California Homes and Jobs Act, which would generate an estimated $500 million annually for affordable housing by placing a fee on the recordation of real estate-related documents, excluding home sales.