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Santa Clara County Officials Consider $950M Housing Bond Measure

SAN JOSE (CBS SF) -- A proposed measure for Santa Clara County would provide up to $950 million to address the lack of housing, an issue that has become a major concern among residents.

The county's board of supervisors will vote on the proposal Tuesday to decide whether the measure will be presented to voters in November.

"We need this stable revenue source to even begin to fill the enormous need we see everyday on our streets," Santa Clara County board president Dave Cortese said during a news conference this morning in San Jose.

County residents have identified housing as the primary issue in recent surveys commissioned by the county surpassing crime and traffic, a finding Cortese hasn't seen before while serving in office.

If approved, the measure would be funded through property taxes by taking $12.66 from every $100,000 in assessed valuation of a home, Cortese said.

The supervisor would like to see $700 million of the total directed to extremely low-income and homeless people and the remaining $250 million for first-time homebuyers and a new work force proximity housing program, which would provide loans for people who work in the county but live outside of the area, he said.

The program could bring 2,000 households to the county within 20 miles of their jobs and in return ease freeway congestion, Cortese said.

The funds would be divided among the county's 15 cities and Cortese sees the money getting distributed based on the competitiveness of each jurisdiction in putting projects forward.

Today's news conference was held at the Japantown Senior Apartments, an affordable housing project that is home for six formerly homeless veterans.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo attended the opening for the senior apartments, where he heard from people overcoming obstacles to find a home, but there were many more who have contrasting stories.

"We have an opportunity now with this measure to change the narrative in this valley, to have a transformative impact," Liccardo said, adding the city has more than 4,000 homeless people.

The county has the fourth largest homeless population across the country, Chavez said.

The county's Homeless Point-In-Time Census and Survey last year showed that of the 6,556 homeless people in the area, 4,627 of them were without shelter and 700 were veterans.

Homelessness also affects the environment when people without shelter occupy creek beds that can result in tons of trash, degraded water quality and damaged ecosystems, Santa Clara Valley Water District board chairwoman Barbara Keegan said.

"These encampments may be out of sight but they are not out of mind," Keegan said.

The Health Trust CEO Fred Ferrer also bolstered the measure by equating housing with health care, as people who suffer from a chronic condition and live outside are more challenged in getting treated.

People who live with HIV and AIDS need to refrigerate their medication that needs to be taken with food. If they don't have a home and struggle to find their next meal, taking the medicine won't be as effective,
Ferrer said.
The Health Trust provides housing opportunities for 800 low-income
clients in the county with HIV and AIDS, according to Ferrer.

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