2006 Finalist
City of San Jose, California
Innovations in American Government Awards
Innovations in American Government Awards
Many consider San Jose, California, to be an ideal place to live—so much so that, despite economic downturn, it maintains one of the priciest housing markets in the country. However, fewer than one out of five residents of the city earn enough to purchase a median-priced home.
City officials worked to change that for the neediest residents through the Five-Year Affordable Housing Production program (FAHP). The project brings together city government with private and nonprofit associations to assess and meet San Jose's extraordinary housing needs. Rather than regard low-income housing as a necessary evil, as many local governments do, San Jose sought to integrate affordable housing into the life and structure of the city.

The result is a very different kind of low-income housing. The new units are indistinguishable from market-priced housing in the neighborhood. With amenities such as pools and community centers, the new housing is designed to add to neighborhood property values. Further, units are scattered all over the city, in low- and high-income neighborhoods alike.

FAHP's strategy ensures that many citizens have firsthand experience with the positive side of public housing projects. This goodwill is augmented by an aggressive publicity program that showcases the benefits that housing projects can confer on neighborhoods.

City residents now embrace low-income housing projects as beneficial to the neighborhood. Even projects designed to serve the poorest of the poor, such as a new 100-unit complex housing formerly homeless individuals, are built with the endorsement of neighborhood residents and area businesses. 

But FAHP has done more than change the culture of affordable housing in San Jose; from 1999 through 2006, the city produced 9,819 livable units.

This rapid increase in affordable housing stock was the result of intensive internal cooperation in the city government. A partnership uniting city officials, private and nonprofit developers, and community advocates suggested 72 ways to streamline housing production. A special team worked to facilitate communication between the City Council, the Mayor's Office, the Housing Department, and the San Jose Redevelopment Agency, ensuring that new plans could be easily implemented.

San Jose officials also collaborated with the nonprofit Neighborhood Housing Association, providing seed money so that the agency could finance loans to private developers with sound plans for affordable housing. Other projects were financed through the city directly.

San Jose's willingness to integrate affordable housing into its community, coupled with dedication from all quarters of the city government and effective partnerships with private organizations, set a new standard for providing shelter to low-income people.