‘The California Dream is in peril:’ Newsom touts $1.75 billion housing plan on San Jose trip

Flanked by Gov. Gavin Newsom and surrounded by Bay Area residents struggling with the region’s cost of living, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo on Tuesday pledged $10 million to help fund the governor’s ambitious housing development goals, and hinted more money will follow from Silicon Valley tech companies.

Liccardo and Newsom addressed reporters at the Seven Trees Community Center in San Jose following a roundtable discussion with five local residents. The two politicians stressed their commitment to ending the state’s affordable housing shortage.

“This is the housing crisis — it’s not an exaggeration,” Newsom said. “It’s impacting communities, not just impacting your paycheck and pocketbook. It’s impacting our lives in a profound way. The California dream is in peril unless we address this issue. We can’t continue to sell good weather.”

The event comes five days after California’s new governor proposed a budget with serious funds for housing development, including $500 million to build homes for middle-income workers. San Jose will supplement that sum with an additional $10 million to build housing for workers making between 60 and 80 percent of the area’s median income, Liccardo said.

“We know they’re teachers and administrative assistants, and a lot of folks who are struggling to afford to live here,” he said in an interview following the event.

The mayor also is working on enticing private companies to buy city bonds that would fund housing development. Liccardo declined to provide specifics Tuesday, but said his office is in talks with several major area companies.

Newsom also said he signed two executive orders Tuesday morning. The first will create an inventory of all state-owned property that could be turned into housing — a task that will be completed by April 30. The second, which will be completed by Sept. 30, will move the building process forward by soliciting development proposals and long-term lease agreements. Newsom hopes to break ground on those properties in two years, and move in residents in three.

And while Newsom voted against Prop. 10, which would have removed the state’s restrictions on rent control, he said he’s open to pursuing rent caps and other adjustments.

“I know there’s a lot of legislative desire to see what we can do,” he said, “and just want folks to know that we’re engaged in that conversation.”

Newsom and Liccardo were joined in their housing discussion by 42-year-old Nuemi Guzman, who works as an executive assistant for the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley in San Jose. Because she and her husband couldn’t afford to buy a house in Santa Clara County for themselves and their three young children, she commutes two-and-a-half hours to work each morning from Los Banos. On Fridays, the return commute can sometimes take up to six hours, Guzman said, eliciting shocked expressions from Newsom and Liccardo.

“Oh wow,” Liccardo muttered.

“It’s just gotten harder and harder,” Guzman said, her voice cracking as she began to tear up. “My kids are growing up with their grandparents and I’m not seeing them, to be able to take them to basketball and soccer.”

Guzman and her husband are considering moving to Arizona for a cheaper cost of living.

Newsom’s proposed budget includes $1.75 billion in new funds for housing to help families like Guzman’s, and in the past he has pledged the state will build 3.5 million new homes under his watch. The state averages 100,000 homes annually, which Newsom on Tuesday called “deplorable.” California needs to triple or quadruple that number, he said.

Tuesday was Liccardo’s second day back at work following a serious bicycle crash two weeks ago that left him with multiple fractures, scrapes and bruises. He was sporting a back brace, but said he was feeling all right after an “incredibly challenging last couple weeks,” and taking nothing but Motrin and Tylenol for the pain.

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