In the past year, Gilroy has made strides to plan and promote more affordable housing opportunities for our residents. This is needed now more than ever before.
According to the State’s recently released new income guidelines, a household of one whose income is $96,000 is considered low income in Santa Clara County. The same is true for a household of four who earns $137,100. This is many of us. We’ve reached a boiling point where we need to be taking advantage of the many tools before us.
Gilroy can’t grow or consider itself equitable and diversified in housing type when 75% of our land is zoned for single family homes. This may have worked in the past, but now that these homes are out of reach for most families, we need to course correct and continue to create a diversified housing stock to meet the needs of our residents.
The 5th Draft Housing Element (Gilroy’s Eight-Year Housing Plan), for example, will create programs to build missing middle housing (this translates to rental opportunities, duplexes, triplexes and four-plexes, a technical way for saying smaller homes that are more naturally affordable). This is in addition to staff’s efforts in developing an inclusionary housing ordinance requiring a percentage of affordable homes in each development, among other initiatives.
Seventy-six percent of homes sold in Silicon Valley last year were above $1 million. In contrast, only 8% of all homes sold within the region were below $600,000. Gilroy’s Planning Commission and City Council acted on this in approving 40 Opportunity Sites with plans to build multi-family housing on them. We established a Housing and Community Services Division that will focus on housing efforts, public service grants, unhoused efforts, below market rate home ownership programs, homebuyer assistance programs, accessory dwelling unit (ADU) programs, emergency housing, unhoused services, rental assistance, tenant/landlord services and mortgage relief assistance. The Division will meet with Gilroy’s Unhoused Service Providers Network on a monthly basis, positioning it to increase collaboration among service providers and the City of Gilroy, and connect the unhoused with services.
In the budget we funded several plans and policies including a Transportation Demand Management (TDM), Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) and Climate Action Plan. These will help enhance all of our developments to shift modes of transportation and connect them to transit in line with our General Plan 2040. Included in our Legislative Work Plan is a Transit First Policy and by incorporating a Transit Oriented Communities Policy we can begin to unlock many more funding opportunities critical for continuing to draw residents towards transit and reduce the number of areas isolated from transit.
The annual SB35 list based on past housing performance was published June 2023 and contains cities and counties subject to SB 35 streamlining provisions when proposed developments include at least 50% affordability. Gilroy is one of the jurisdictions that has insufficient progress toward its lower income Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) and is therefore subject to the streamlined ministerial approval process for proposed developments with at least 50% affordability. The State Department of Housing and Community Development’s (HCD) new Housing Accountability Unit will be monitoring implementation and will hold jurisdictions to the commitments laid out in the Housing Element’s plan. HCD will review actions and inactions submitted in the Annual Progress Report by local jurisdictions and they will take action on jurisdictions that are inconsistent with their Housing Elements.
The City of Gilroy and Gilroy City Council have made huge steps toward housing for all residents since I took office in December 2020. Data from our Housing Element shows 21% of households are considered extremely low-income, making less than 30% of AMI.
As we prepare for the next Housing Element, we will need to examine the ways at which the 75% zoning can be the limiting factor as we work toward affordability and equity, and not continue to have communities that are segregated based on incomes and race. The consequences of failing to effectively and aggressively confront this crisis is hurting thousands of our residents, robbing future generations of the chance to call Gilroy home, stifling economic opportunities for workers and businesses, worsening poverty and homelessness, and undermining our environmental and climate objectives.
For my full statement, please visit www.zachhilton.com.
Zach Hilton is a Gilroy City Councilmember.