Opinion: Waite: In wake of SJ budget cuts, Housing Dept deserves “intense scrutiny”

A woman standing in front of trees with the words " the era of enclosures."
Rembrandt, The Return of the Prodigal Son, 1661–1669. Public domain.

SJ’s City Council bestowed generous increases on the unions representing about half of its employees. Up to $20 million may need to be removed from the 2025/26 budget to bring things into balance. Where should this come from, asks Pat Waite of Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility? Perhaps from SJ’s overspending, underperforming Housing Dept, he suggests in this Opp Now exclusive.

The easy answer, as already raised by City management, comes from Parks and Recreation spending. And, if true to form, that will be followed by reductions in the library budget. After all, the beneficiaries of these services are largely the poorly organized citizens of San Jose.

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CFR believes that the San Jose Housing Department (SJHD) warrants intense scrutiny. They are nominally responsible for leading the City’s battle for affordability and against homelessness, which by any metric there has shown very little progress. This is despite almost doubling the department headcount in the past decade (from 57 to 109.5) and growing the SJHD budget to a proposed $173 million this fiscal year.

A large part of this spending increase is hidden in the General Fund in the line item “Earmarked Reserves,†a significant component of which is the Measure E property transfer tax, currently forecast at $65 million versus the baseline forecast $40 million per year. Should all this windfall flow to homelessness and affordable housing? CFR believes that the Council should reallocate some to avoid cuts to parks and libraries—services that benefit all residents, including our homeless population. This is an ironic position, since CFR warned residents that this was a likely outcome when the City’s budget needed balancing.

Original Opinion Blog for Opportunity Now