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Counties collaborate to bring affordable housing to East Palo Alto

“Our housing challenges are regional. Our solutions have to be regional as well.”

SAN JOSE – Affordable housing in East Palo Alto is receiving a boost from Santa Clara County’s award of $1.5 million from its Stanford Affordable Housing Fund (SAHF) to support a housing development at 965 Weeks Street, East Palo Alto in San Mateo County. The inter-county support was proposed by Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian and authorized by a unanimous vote of the Board of Supervisors earlier this year.

“Our housing challenges are regional. Our solutions have to be regional as well,” said Simitian. “Our County’s action is a testament to what we can get done when we work across borders. We’re now an important step closer to bringing affordable housing to folks who need it.”

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a proposal Simitian put forward to set aside $3 million from the SAHF to support the development of two affordable housing developments in San Mateo County, including 965 Weeks Street.

The SAHF was established in 2000 as part of the Stanford General Use Permit process to help mitigate Stanford University’s housing impact on surrounding communities. In lieu of building affordable housing units on campus, Stanford can pay a fee, and the funds support the development of affordable housing within a six-mile radius of the Stanford University campus, including parts of southern San Mateo County.

Over the years, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors has allocated nearly $38 million in Stanford affordable housing funds for affordable housing within Santa Clara County, but this is the first time that funds have been allocated for projects in San Mateo County.

“The housing crisis is a burden shared across our region, and one that Santa Clara County cannot address alone,” Simitian noted. “We know the University’s development has impacts across County lines, so it’s only right that our neighbors in San Mateo County receive some of the benefit these housing funds have to offer. Simply put, our housing problems know no boundaries.”

The County of San Mateo, in collaboration with the City of East Palo Alto, requested $1.5 million from Santa Clara County’s SAHF for the 136-unit, all-affordable multi-family housing in East Palo Alto being developed by MidPen Housing. The site is two and a half acres in size and is situated close to local schools and parks. In May, the project was awarded $6,660,543 in Federal Tax Credits annually for each of 10 years, translating to approximately $66 million in equity for the project. That made the project “real” and made the immediate availability of other funding sources particularly timely and important. Construction is anticipated to begin this Fall. Simitian noted that Santa Clara County’s contribution is, “relatively modest given the size of the project, but the only way you find sufficient funds is if everybody does their part.”

“We’re so grateful for the Board of Supervisors’ support of our development on Weeks Street,” said Melvin Gaines, City Manager for the City of East Palo Alto. “Securing this additional funding from the Stanford Fund was a tremendous help in allowing the project to move forward.”

“In San Mateo County, our county, our cities, and our nonprofit development partners have been working to create quality affordable housing in south San Mateo County for many years. We believe Santa Clara County’s funding allocation will go a long way toward achieving this goal,” said Mike Callagy, County Executive for San Mateo County. “More than that, it sends the right message about how we can and should work together. This is exactly the kind of partnership we need across jurisdictional boundaries.”

“This is a win for both counties,” said Simitian. “It makes all the sense in the world.”