Santa Clara: First supportive housing project breaks ground
City, county and private partners helped break ground on Calabazas Community Apartments in Santa Clara Monday. Photo by Katie Lauer.

The first supportive housing complex in the city of Santa Clara broke ground Monday morning, the latest in a line of projects funded by a massive county tax for affordable housing.

Calabazas Community Apartments – a 5-story, 145-unit building at 2904 Corvin Dr. – will reserve 80 of its studio apartments for homeless individuals, offering on-site support services like job assistance and case management.

Each micro-studio unit is around 300 square-feet, and will feature a private bathroom and kitchenette. The single acre property developed by Abode Services is less than a mile away from the Lawrence Caltrain Station, bus lines and a growing list of amenities along the expressway.

The complex received nearly $29 million in Measure A funding, as part of a 2016 bond approved by voters to build affordable housing for the nearly 6,200 homeless people living in San Jose, 272 in Santa Clara and more than 9,700 across the county.

Through partnerships with Santa Clara County, Destination: Home, Cisco, Housing Trust Silicon Valley and the Santa Clara County Housing Authority, construction started earlier this month and residents are expected to begin leasing the studio homes by Fall 2021.

Abode Services is no stranger to this type of “housing first” work, having been involved with 30 different housing projects in six counties. But CEO Louis Chicoine said this is a milestone, as its the nonprofit’s first as the developer – an idea first dreamt up 20 years ago.

“This is going to be transformative for the people we're serving, because in this county, we're actually providing housing opportunities to those who need it the most,” Chicoine said. “My heart is full of gratitude today because there's absolutely nothing about what happened 20 years ago that could have happened with just us alone. It's all partnerships, it's cities saying yes.”

Santa Clara did just that, having allocating $5 million for this project alone. Mayor Lisa Gillmor said the apartments are part of the city’s new movement to provide opportunity for underserved residents.

“I think it's a real key location for us and a very visible location in our community to have this type of project,” Gillmor told Lucescamaray Blog, adding a recent city policy change will allow for the addition of mixed-use development and a senior housing project next door. “Everybody talks about this all the time, but we're actually doing it in Santa Clara. This is going to be the first of a few affordable housing projects that we have.”

Another partner that said “yes” to the 145 new apartments was Cisco, which provided $250,000 to help the project get started and tie up the land. As part of last year’s $50 million commitment to Destination: Home to help accelerate development of units like Calabazas Community Apartments, Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins said he hopes continued conversations with other Silicon Valley companies will help more projects like this come to fruition.

“Now I’m convinced that the CEOs in the area understand that whether it's hunger, whether it's affordable housing, education or homelessness, that having a vital thriving community is essential for all of us,” Robbins said. “We cannot continue to operate in a way that doesn't create opportunity for all.”

Destination: Home CEO Jennifer Loving framed the entire event in the holiday spirit, saying the Christian symbolism of a vulnerable family seeking shelter outside in a manger is a perfect way to look at the impact of projects like Calabazas Community Apartments.

“More and more it feels like Silicon Valley is one big inn and there's not very much room,” Loving said. “The opportunity we have to work even harder to make room for people, it requires more of us, it requires more flexibility, it requires more people saying yes.”

Contact Katie Lauer at [email protected] or follow @_katielauer on Twitter.

Editor's Note: Jennifer Loving serves on Lucescamaray Blog's Board of Directors.

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