Affordable housing in Los Gatos is facing a battle of immigration

Los Gatos has an ambitious plan to add thousands of homes over the next two decades, but some city officials and experts say it is not as feasible as planned.

Los Gatos, with a population of 33,000, has barely grown in the last decade. In the draft 2040 general plan, officials recommend building 3,783 housing units over the next 20 years – by moving away from single-family homes – to make the city more general for a less affluent population. A group of residents strongly oppose the plan, calling it unrealistic.

A housing lawyer and developers told Los Gatos officials at a research meeting on Wednesday that the long-term plan may not materialize. The town is already facing a huge challenge to meet the housing target imposed on the state of building at least 1,993 homes – of which 847 should be reasonable – by 2031.

The study session, attended by an attorney and three local housing improvers, was put together by a group of city residents and officials.

“The message I got from this meeting was that it would be really hard to meet our goal,” Los Gatos Mayor Rob Rani told San Jose Spotlight. “There are a lot of challenges.”

An elusive goal

Los Gatos is working on its housing element, which is the city’s plan on how to meet the target of planning nearly 2,000 homes as part of the 2023-31 regional housing needs assessment cycle. Los Gatos had to design 619 homes in the last cycle.

In the past, there was no punishment if cities did not meet the housing targets set by the state, but housing editor Barbara Coutz said things had changed. If municipalities do not meet this cycle, the Attorney General will intervene. For repeat offenders, the state will allow developments to bypass public proceedings, Coutz said.

“(The state) is examining whether the sites identified can really be developed much more carefully,” Kautz said at the meeting, noting that the state’s housing goal in general is unrealistic without assistance from the federal government.

Housing developers have said this is especially true in Los Gatos, where options are even more limited.

Don Capobers of Harmonie Park Development, which is building the city’s largest housing project called North 40, said increasing density is not the answer. With limited land, he said Los Gatos would have to do housing on a podium – five- to six-story developments – if she wanted to build more densely.

“With traditional financing and rent in the Western Silicon Valley of maybe $ 4 per square foot, we could not afford it today,” he said. “Even if you were to give us an empty check or the golden key to Los Gatos to develop 500 units in the North 40, it would have been very difficult for us to get there.”

Andrea Osgood, senior vice president of Eden Housing, said some of the biggest affordable housing restrictions in Los Gattos are land and funding. Shikun Eden is building affordable housing for the North 40 project.

Chris Neil, senior vice president of CORE Companies, agreed, and advocated for greater collaboration with the city, streamlining the construction process and waiving commissions, especially for smaller projects. CORE companies are developers of housing projects at market prices and also of affordable housing.

Rani, who assisted in chairing the meeting, said the town would falter in achieving that goal unless the economy of the situation changed.

“Construction has to be cheaper somehow. The state or the federals need to provide a lot more funding,” he said. “Something has to change for it to really be achievable.”

Push at least houses

Jak Vannada, an organizer in the Los Gatos Community Alliance, said the event helped city officials realize housing design challenges. The Los Gatos Community Alliance opposes the current housing offer.

“It felt like the city was putting the cart before the horse,” Wanda said of the city’s overall plan. “It’s going to be a hard effort to do this thing right and do it on time.”

According to a municipal survey conducted at the end of last year, about 62% of residents familiar with the general plan oppose the proposal. Nearly 60 percent of all participants oppose the design of 3,900 homes.

The group hopes that the study meeting will bring adjustments to the housing proposals in the general plan, Wanda added. The planning committee is scheduled to begin work on the general plan proposals later this month. City council will be the final vote.

Vannada said the cost is another concern for the group, as the city expects a budget shortfall of between $ 10 million and $ 25 million over the next five years.

“There is so much to do ahead of these new buildings,” he said. “But where will the money come from?”

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