Affordable Housing Being Considered for Community College Lands

Santa Clara County community college trustees, presidents and students joined Supervisor Cindy Chavez at Mission College Friday to discuss proposed affordable housing that would be placed on community college campuses for students and extremely-low income locals alike.

Chavez said that she met with presidents and chancellors of every community college district in the county recently about their biggest obstacles and the resounding issue was affordable housing.

As housing prices in the area continue to rise, Chavez is proposing a partnership between the county and interested districts to put reasonably-priced units on the colleges' land.

Chavez got the idea from noticing that some community colleges she visits for addresses and news conferences have parking areas that always seem to be vacant, while some are always full.

The supervisor took this into account and was convinced the underutilized lots could be changed for the greater good.

"I cannot think of more deserving people than those who are working for both their humanity and their education," Chavez said after discussing how some students live out of their cars and shower at their community college facilities in order to keep earning their degree.

Representatives from the Foothill-De Anza and San Jose Evergreen community college districts, San Jose City College and Mission College listened on as Chavez explained the project, which will appear as a motion in front of the Board of Supervisors at their June 5 meeting.

Chavez is asking the board to approve entering into a six-month memorandum of understanding with districts who would like to participate in finding a way to use remaining Measure A funding, passed in Santa Clara County in 2016, to house those who need it.

Chavez said she was originally going to propose year-long memorandums but wanted to expedite the process because she saw heavy demand for the housing now.

The supervisor believes that part of the $950 million affordable housing bond could be used to house not only struggling faculty, staff and students in these complexes, but also who the bond was designed for: homeless, individuals suffering from mental health or substance abuse, foster youth and victims of domestic violence and more.

In the area of the housing units that the county would pay for, those demographics would be offered refuge. In areas funded by the community college districts, their students and staff would have a place to live, Chavez explained.

Some of Mission College's at-risk youth, or "opportunity youth," attended the conference in support. First-year student Maria Vans said that this initiative could benefit students like her who always worry their temporary housing could fall through.

Vans utilizes Mission College's Extended Opportunity Program and Services, through which she gets financial aid, textbook vouchers and student health and academic counseling. She says without this aid, she would have dropped out of the college by now.

Vans has seven units left before she can transfer with a major in sociology, political science and administrative justice. She hopes to maintain a 4.0 and go to a private university so that she can become a lawyer, inspired by an aspiration to help people with backgrounds like her own.

Several representatives of the school districts spoke, and each of their remarks echoed that while their college campuses had systems in place to help hungry or homeless students and staff, they are always open to providing more resources.

"We know that the cost of living is a real concern to our students," Mission College president Daniel Peck said. "We have partnered locally with Panera Bread and Second Harvest and invest in services directly on campus to make an impact. But we can always look to do more."

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