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Because it’s neighbors, not just buildings, who make up a community’s character.

Opportunity housing helps create homes of all shapes and sizes, integrated into communities, and more affordable for working families, seniors, or young families.

What is opportunity housing? It’s San Jose’s unique term for allowing duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes across all our city’s neighborhoods. Once common in San Jose, these homes have been prohibited over the last few decades, even as we have faced a shortage of new homes and rising housing costs, pricing more families out of the city. Opportunity Housing typically creates more affordable housing by design since units are usually smaller than a single-family home.

Fourplex in San Jose’s Vendome Park neighborhood

SB 9 & Opportunity Housing

Senate Bill 9 is state legislation that does much of what we have collectively been advocating for with Opportunity Housing. Most importantly it eliminates exclusionary, single-family zoning and allows 2-4 units to be built throughout San Jose, and across the state. On September 3rd the bill was cleared through the State Legislature and delivered to the Governor where is currently awaiting his signature. Unless something very unexpected happens, the bill will become law and go into effect as soon as January 1, 2022.

This is a tremendous step forward, and the debate in Sacramento echoed most of the reasons many of us feel this is important to San Jose – promoting opportunity for racial and economic inclusion rather than exclusion all across the city, creating desperately needed new homes, providing new pathways to homeownership, and promoting environmentally sustainable development to prevent more sprawl.

However, there are some things SB 9 doesn’t do, including providing incentives for greater affordability, and the bill is already being threatened by a push for a statewide ballot measure to overturn it. There are good reasons to continue to push for local action in San Jose. Read more about SB 9 & Opportunity Housing here.

Don’t we already have planned growth areas?

Right now, 94% of San Jose’s residential land is zoned only for single-family housing. According to the US Census Bureau, only 50% of San Jose residents live in a single-family home. That means that the remaining half of our San Jose residents are excluded from 94% of San Jose’s residential land. Opportunity housing can reverse this lasting effect of exclusive zoning polices.

While dense Urban Villages are critical for accommodating much of our growth, our residents and their needs are not all the same. We need a continuum of responses and a diversity of housing types aimed at different incomes and needs, from studio apartments to mid and high-density market rate homes. As a city, we have strategies for affordable housing and market rate housing, but what we don’t really have effective tools to address is the “missing middle” – homes for families bigger than an ADU but more affordable by design than typical market rate housing.

We’ve learned from allowing ADUs in single family neighborhoods that a variety of housing choices can fit in with neighborhood character. Citywide Opportunity Housing is the natural next step to allow our future generations to thrive in the communities they grew up in.

The City’s General Plan 4-Year Review Task Force, made up of stakeholders and community leaders from every council district, has recommended that the city develop a policy to allow opportunity housing in neighborhoods currently restricted to single family homes in neighborhoods across the city. 

Although it is early in a multiyear process, the task force recommended that the next steps include:

  • Conducting robust citywide community engagement, 
  • Studying incentive to include units at affordable or moderately-priced levels, 
  • Developing tools to minimize displacement risks, and
  • Proposing strategies to preserve historic areas.

Recommendations from staff and the Task Force, and a summary of public comments will be presented to City Council in October 2021 for direction on whether to take these next steps. The Neighborhoods for All coalition is bringing people together to advocate for this process to proceed.

Older duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes already play a role in San Jose’s vibrant neighborhoods.

There are more than 5,500 of these properties in San Jose, with examples in every council district. New opportunity housing type homes are legal now in many West Coast cities, blending into neighborhoods where they provide a greater range of affordability and housing choices. To solve our housing shortage, we will need to use a range of solutions to create more affordable choices of all shapes and sizes for all our neighbors.

See maps of where opportunity housing already is in San Jose- and where it is illegal to build today

Learn more or join the opportunity housing movement today!