One ofÂ San Jose Mayor Matt Mahanâ€™s main goalsÂ is to finish his predecessorâ€™s promise and complete 1,000 interim homesÂ for the unhoused by the end of this yearâ€”but city staff said thatâ€™sÂ impossible.
Interim homes are quick-build temporary shelters designed to be a fast and cheap solution to getting homeless residents off the streets and on the path to permanent housing. Former Mayor Sam Liccardo set the original goal in 2021, and Mahan announced his end-of-year target at his inauguration. But when the issue came up at Tuesdayâ€™s City Council meeting, housing officials said it will be at least two years before San Jose can meet the goal.
The city has built nearly 400 temporary homes since 2021 at five different sites. At the end of the year, 96 more will be available in a San Jose Police Department parking lot. By 2024, the city should have 304 additional interim homes built through the expansion of the Rue Ferrari site and a new development at Monterey and Branham.
That still leaves 200 homes to reach the goalâ€”and the city hasnâ€™t secured locations or all of the funding for the sites. Each site costs about $1.5 million to $3 million annually to operate, according to city officials.
Deputy City Manager Jim Ortbal said thereâ€™s no way to speed things up. There are four locations the city is considering building interim housing on, but the land is not city-owned, which drags out the process. Until contracts are in place, the city cannot even go out to bid and find a developer to design and plan for the site.
â€œThatâ€™s the reality of working with other peopleâ€™s land,â€ Ortbal said.
The four sites under consideration are the Cerone and Cottle VTA sitesâ€”which are still pending negotiations with the public transit agencyâ€”one near Highway 85 and Santa Teresa Boulevard owned by Caltrans and another near Highway 85 and Great Oaks Boulevard owned by a private landowner.
â€œUnfortunately, it doesnâ€™t feel like these sites are moving forward with the urgency that I hope, just given the crisis that we see out on our streets every day,â€ Mahan said.
Councilmember David Cohen said itâ€™s disappointing the city has not found a faster way to build more temporary housing. He said the city should at least have plans ready for when land negotiations are finalized.
â€œThe idea for these types of sites is to have some standardization of our design and be able to really move quickly,â€ Cohen said. â€œ(Having to wait until 2024) just doesnâ€™t seem like weâ€™re gonna move the needle like we have to.â€
However, Cohen is happy to hear the city is making progress locating potential safe parking sites for people living in RVs. City officials identified five potential locations in his North San Jose districtâ€”three on city-owned landâ€”which makes it easier to develop. Recreational vehicles line several San Jose streetsâ€”and the city doesnâ€™t even have an idea how many there are. In Cohenâ€™s district, the overflow of RV parking has forced some businesses to consider relocating to other cities.
Not only has the city been slow to build interim housingâ€”the cityâ€™s only safe parking site is facing several delays. After years of planning, the sanctioned space at the VTA Santa Teresa light rail lot was supposed to open in January, but has been pushed back to May.
â€œWeâ€™re in the third year of being in a situation where itâ€™s urgent that we get an RV parking site,â€ Cohen said. â€œWe always seem to be months out from it and I donâ€™t want to head into 2024 and still not have (anything started).â€
By Jana Kadah for San Jose Spotlight