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A 2016 triplex in Vancouver

How do new state laws affect San Jose’s Opportunity Housing?

September 21, 2021: Now that SB 9 is law, legalizing 2-4 units of housing per parcel, Opportunity Housing still has an important role to play in shaping how we expand our housing options in San Jose.

Fourplex in San Jose’s Vendome Park neighborhood

Why Bay Area needs to eliminate single-family zoning

August 11, 2021: Kevin Zwick, CEO of United Way Bay Area, tells his personal story of the role a fourplex played in allowing his young family to become Bay Area homeowners, and how many others are shut out by high home prices and exclusionary land use restrictions.

A lovely duplex in Mahan’s District 10

Correcting Councilmember Mahan

August 10, 2021: Opposition to Opportunity Housing is often based on misconceptions and misunderstandings. Alli Rico (a District 3 resident and a volunteer with South Bay YIMBY), Anoeil Odisho (a District 10 resident), and Gil Rodan (a District 1 resident) provide a smart and nuanced explanation of what’s real- and what isn’t.

Fourplex in San Jose’s Rose Garden neighborhood

Poll shows majority of San Jose residents support Opportunity Housing

June 24, 2021: A new poll released by affordable housing advocacy group Silicon Valley at Home finds that 56% of residents support changing zoning laws to allow for duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes in single-family neighborhoods—a concept known as Opportunity Housing. Scroll down for more polling detail.

A modern triplex in Vancouver

Greenbelt Alliance: San José Opportunity Housing is an Opportunity for Climate SMART Development

May 5, 2021: The housing crisis and climate crisis are inextricably linked: adding multi-unit housing to single-family neighborhoods will help our region address the need for more housing choices closer to transit, jobs, and services while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building climate resilience.

Coyote Valley, an area south of San Jose protected from sprawl by the City’s commitment to build only in areas that have already been developed

Sierra Club Supports End to Single-Family Zoning in Berkeley

February 23, 2021: “Promoting infill development is a way to save habitat and rural lands, reduce pollution, and create more convenient neighborhoods for people. We look forward to working together with the City to ensure that we preserve housing affordability and tenant protections while promoting thoughtful transit-oriented development through the lens of equity — all of these being long-standing Sierra Club values.”

Without Opportunity Housing, all of San Jose’s multifamily homes and all the city’s future growth is restricted to just 6% of the city’s residential land

Cities Start to Question an American Ideal: A House With a Yard on Every Lot

June 18, 2019: Under San Jose’s current land use plan, all of San Jose’s multifamily homes and all the city’s future growth is restricted to just 6% of the city’s residential land. Single-family zoning leaves much land off-limits to new housing, forcing new supply into poorer, minority communities or onto undeveloped land outside of cities.

Opportunity Housing FAQ


Press Release: Poll shows a majority of registered voters in San Jose support Opportunity Housing as dozens of local organizations endorse growing campaign

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ON June 24, 2021

Poll shows a majority of registered voters in San Jose support Opportunity Housing as dozens of local organizations endorse growing campaign*

(San Jose, CA June 24) A recent poll of registered voters in San Jose found that a majority (56%) support changing the zoning to allow duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes in single family neighborhoods – known in San Jose as “Opportunity Housing”. 

Attention to the issue is picking up locally as cities around the country and the northern California region, the California Legislature, and the Biden Administration all take steps to reconsider restrictive single-family zoning laws. 

The poll results come as over two dozen major housing advocacy, environmental, and social and racial justice organizations (list attached) have signed on to the endorsement statement (attached) of the growing San Jose Neighborhoods for All campaign to expand housing opportunity through zoning reform in the City.  

The survey found that 81% of respondents said they were concerned about friends and family being able to find an affordable place to live. “Allowing a greater variety of housing in our neighborhoods can help ensure our children and the next generation can afford to stay and live in San Jose where they were raised,”said Fred Buzo, San Jose Director, SPUR.“Citywide Opportunity Housing is an important tool, along with high density development in transit areas, in our response to the multidimensional housing crisis,” 

Currently, 94% of San Jose’s residential land is zoned only for single-family housing, and does not allow duplexes, triplexes, or fourplexes. According to the US Census Bureau, only 50% of San Jose residents live in a single-family home, meaning that roughly 50% of the city’s residents are concentrated in 6% of the available land. 

“Home prices are making most of the city out of reach to most people,” commented Aaron Eckhouse of California YIMBY, a pro-housing organization. “When less than a third of your city’s population can afford a home in these neighborhoods — most of the city — you are pushing people out.   Opportunity Housing means access to more affordable homes in more places, where young families and first time homebuyers can get a foot in the door and start building intergenerational wealth.”   

Many endorsing the campaign for zoning reform point to the fact that restrictive single family zoning is exclusionary by design. “Every day, we hear from residents who face displacement from San Jose,” shared Alison Brunner, CEO, Law Foundation of Silicon Valley. “We are proud to support citywide opportunity housing as a means to uphold the Fair Housing Act, by dismantling systemic inequities that segregate and divide our community.” 

“Increasing density within the existing development footprint of the city — where housing already exists,” explains Justin Wang, Advocacy Manager, of Greenbelt Alliance, “means that San José can protect nearby open spaces like Coyote Valley, which are crucial for our region’s climate resilience, biodiversity, and water supply, and limit the massive emissions of mega commuters from sprawling development outside the Bay Area.”

In October the San Jose City Council will consider a recommendation from The General Plan Four-Year Review Task Force to explore “opportunity housing” city wide beginning with robust community outreach, and including ways of protecting historic homes, mitigating risks of displacement, considering incentives to make more homes affordable to lower income residents, and a thorough environmental review.

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Select Statements from Campaign Endorsers

Our housing should reflect, accommodate, and support the diverse communities that make up our incredible region. Opportunity Housing allows us to move away from the legacy of racist housing policies that undermined economic equity and instead, create a Bay Area that is open to all.  Kevin Zwick, Chief Executive Officer, United Way Bay Area

Local resistance to lifting zoning restrictions on housing production are really at the heart of the housing crisis. When less than a third of your city’s population can afford a home in these neighborhoods — most of the city — you are walling people out. Opportunity Housing means access to more affordable homes in more places, where young families and first time homebuyers can get a foot in the door and start building intergenerational wealth. Aaron Eckhouse, Regional Policy Manager, California YIMBY.  

Walk San Jose supports citywide Opportunity Housing because creating more housing options citywide will start to address discriminatory housing policies that have impacted low-income communities of color in San Jose. Citywide Opportunity Housing will allow residents to stay in San Jose, helping to reduce sprawl, cut down our greenhouse gas emissions, and create healthy, walkable communities for people of all ages and abilities. Nikita Sinha, Walk San Jose Program Manager, California Walks

Increasing density within the existing development footprint of the city — where housing already exists — means that San José can protect nearby open spaces like Coyote Valley, which are crucial for our region’s climate resilience, biodiversity, and water supply, and limit the massive emissions of mega commuters from sprawling development outside the Bay Area. Justin Wang, Advocacy Manager, Greenbelt Alliance 

Every day, the Law Foundation hears from residents who face displacement from San Jose.  We are proud to support citywide opportunity housing as a means to uphold the Fair Housing Act, by dismantling systemic inequities that segregate and divide our community. Alison Brunner, CEO, Law Foundation of Silicon Valley

The Santa Clara County Democratic Party platform clearly articulates our support for ending exclusionary zoning, increasing housing opportunities, and preventing urban sprawl. We enthusiastically endorse San Jose pursuing citywide Opportunity Housing to help address a history of inequity, give working families in our community a chance, and protect our environment.  Michael Vargas, Issues Director, Santa Clara County Democratic Party

Allowing a greater variety of housing in our neighborhoods can help ensure our children and the next generation can afford to stay and live in San Jose where they were raised if they choose to. Citywide Opportunity Housing is an important tool, along with high density development in transit areas or supportive housing for those who were formerly homeless, in our response to the multidimensional housing crisis we face.  Fred Buzo, San Jose Director, SPUR 

Methodology:

The direct language presented in the survey was: “Thinking specifically about housing in the Bay Area, do you support or oppose changing the zoning in single family home neighborhoods to allow duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes?” 56% of those surveyed reported support, 42% of those surveyed reported opposition, and 3% reported that they didn’t know. Additional detail from the survey is attached.

* EMC Research – commissioned by Silicon Valley at Home. Survey of registered voters in selected Silicon Valley cities. Mixed mode live telephone and email and text to web methodology. Survey conducted March 29 – April 1, 2021. Oversample to achieve 412 interviews in San Jose; margin of error 4.83 percentage points. Interviews were conducted in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese by trained, professional interviewers; landlines and mobile phones included.

 Additional survey results*

“Thinking specifically about housing in the Bay Area, do you support or oppose changing the zoning in single family home neighborhoods to allow duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes?”

Poll Demographics – 

Changing zoning in single family neighborhoods to allow duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes was supported across racial groups and many other characteristics of registered voters.

Priorities – 

Asked about issues facing the Bay Area nearly 90% of respondents felt building more housing that is affordable and addressing racial inequality were important priorities, with just under half feeling that these were extremely important issues.

Housing Attitudes – 

Over 80% of respondents expressed concern about low-income families, and their own friends and family members being able to find an affordable place to live.

* EMC Research – commissioned by Silicon Valley at Home.

Survey of registered voters in selected Silicon Valley cities. Mixed mode live telephone and email and text to web methodology. Survey conducted March 29 – April 1, 2021. Oversample to achieve 412 interviews in San Jose; margin of error 4.83 percentage points. Interviews were conducted in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese by trained, professional interviewers; landlines and mobile phones included.

San Jose Neighborhoods for All Endorsement Statement

I support opportunity housing in San Jose; allowing duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes to be built in single-family neighborhoods citywide. I support building a community where everyone can live, work, and thrive. This policy will create more broad based economic prosperity for San Jose as more people will be able to move into high-opportunity areas with good jobs, and will allow more residents the opportunity to find housing they can afford, making it easier to support their families.

Building a more inclusive community must include eliminating exclusionary zoning that has perpetuated the division of our city by race and income, fueled our housing crisis by constraining housing choices and options, and threatened our environmental sustainability by increasing urban sprawl, long polluting commutes, and displacement of communities into areas at great risk of climate hazards. This modest step towards inclusion and expanded economic opportunity, crafted to protect against displacement of existing residents, will enhance neighborhoods and strengthen communities throughout the city. I support opportunity housing in San Jose.

Organizations that have endorsed Opportunity Housing in San Jose 

  • African American Community Service Agency
  • California Walks
  • California YIMBY
  • Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County
  • Destination: Home
  • Greenbelt Alliance
  • Housing Action Coalition
  • Law Foundation of Silicon Valley
  • LUNA- Latinos United for a New America
  • Mariposa Planning Solutions
  • OJK Architecture + Planning
  • PACT- People Acting in Community Together
  • Project Sentinel
  • Sacred Heart Community Service
  • Santa Clara County Democratic Party
  • Silicon Valley Community Foundation
  • Silicon Valley Rising Action
  • SJSU Human Rights Institute
  • South Bay YIMBY
  • SPUR
  • SV@Home
  • TechEquity Collaborative
  • The Affordable Housing Network of Santa Clara County
  • The Health Trust
  • United Way Bay Area
  • Urban Environmentalists
  • Walk San Jose
  • Working Partnerships USA
  • YIMBY Action

News


Berkeley to end single-family residential zoning, citing racist ties San Jose Mercury News

2/24/2021: The same city that was the birthplace of single-family zoning in the early 1900s has now voted to eliminate it by December 2022. The Berkeley City Council took the first step early Wednesday morning in a unanimous vote to undo “exclusionary zoning,” which would eliminate single-family residential zoning and allow for other types of housing such as apartments, duplexes and triplexes. Single-family residential zoning has roots that led to racial and economic segregation, according to city officials.

Sacramento Leapfrogs State Capitol in Zoning Reform Race The Terner Center for Housing Innovation

1/28/2021: Last week, the Sacramento City Council unanimously approved a preliminary plan to allow for up to four units to be built on nearly every residential parcel throughout the city. The move pushes America’s Farm to Fork Capital into the ranks of major American cities such as Portland and Minneapolis that have taken steps to address the racist legacy of exclusionary zoning through progressive land use reforms. The move is more than symbolic: Sacramento faces significant rent burden pressures, especially as more San Francisco Bay Area residents priced out of the Bay Area migrate in. With this vote, Sacramento city leadership is affirming their commitment to catalyze the construction of enough and more diverse housing to accommodate all who would like to reside in their city.

Cities Start to Question an American Ideal: A House With a Yard on Every Lot The New York Times

6/18/2019: Today the effect of single-family zoning is far-reaching: It is illegal on 75 percent of the residential land in many American cities to build anything other than a detached single-family home.

While zoning remains invisible to many people, the problems it’s connected to increasingly are not. Zoning laws helped cement patterns of racial and economic segregation in cities across the country by separating housing types so that renters would be less likely to live among homeowners, or working-class families among affluent ones, or minority children near high-quality schools. Single-family zoning leaves much land off-limits to new housing, forcing new supply into poorer, minority communities or onto undeveloped land outside of cities.

Awesome Explainer Videos

Got a minute? Okay, maybe a minute and a half. Check out this 90-second explainer video from Sightline Institute on the problem of exclusionary zoning and the upzoning affordability solution. Learn more about how zoning keeps prices high and builds invisible walls around our cities and how upzoning for more homes, all shapes and sizes (Opportunity Housing), protects mixed-income communities and stabilizes prices!

Got a little longer? Watch this phenomenal 15-minute video from The Two Hundred, Redlined, A Legacy of Housing Discrimination. It traces the often-forgotten history of the federal government sponsored financial “redlining” of communities of color. More importantly, it uncovers some of the enduring psycho-social impacts on not only communities of color but on the White community as well.

Redlined, A Legacy of Housing Discrimination from The Two Hundred on Vimeo.

Got time for a deep dive? Check out this hour long conversation from SPUR, Single-Family Zoning Drives Exclusion. Recent bestselling books like The Color of Law and Evicted have brought to light the history and ramifications of decades of racist housing policy. Despite greater awareness, these injustices continue through widespread exclusionary zoning policies that favor single-family zoning. A groundbreaking report recently released by the Othering & Belong Institute at UC Berkeley documents the relationship between single-family housing and racial exclusion in the Bay Area. This is a discussion about how housing policy has created areas characterized by exclusion and what can be done about it. 

Single-Family Zoning Drives Exclusion from SPUR on Vimeo.

Check out this recorded event from Catalyze SV, and hear about the Opportunity Housing movement sweeping the nation! The panel features speakers from cities where this zoning reform has already been enacted.

Learn more about Catalyze SV’s work

Research


How Housing Supply Shapes Access to Entry-Level Homeownership UC Berkeley’s Terner Center

New housing production increasingly has shifted toward larger formats and single-family homes, as many cities have adopted restrictive land use polices that keep small multifamily homes out. This has caused steep home price increases, particularly among entry-level homes in high-cost, supply-constrained markets like San Jose. Smaller multifamily homes, such as duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes, have been more accessible to younger and lower-earning homebuyers, making homeownership more inclusive.

Single-Family Zoning in the San Francisco Bay Area: Characteristics of Exclusionary Communities UC Berkeley’s Othering and Belonging Institute

As part of our series on racial segregation in the San Francisco Bay Area, we examined the relationship between restrictive zoning (and single-family zoning in particular) and racial residential segregation. That investigation led us to a broader understanding of the effects of single-family zoning, which we now document.

Single-family zoning dominates the Bay Area’s residential neighborhoods, squeezing out much-needed denser housing options. None of this information condemns the single-family home nor the residents of these neighborhoods. The policy solution we advocate for is not to deprive single-family neighborhoods of resources, but to eliminate the barriers that prevent the rest of the Bay Area’s residents from accessing them. The elimination of single-family zoning will help to allow a greater supply of housing in these neighborhoods so that the opportunity they provide will become more broadly and equitably distributed.

San Jose General Plan Task Force 4-Year Review Materials


At the August 20, 2020 Task Force meeting, the Task Force voted to recommend that the City Council should explore opportunity housing for properties citywide with a Residential Neighborhood land use designation. Recommendations from staff and the Task Force, and a summary of public comments will be presented to City Council in Spring 2021 for further direction on opportunity housing.

Why Opportunity Housing? Presentation on Missing Middle Housing to the Task Force by Dan Parolek, 12/18/19

Slide deck for Missing Middle Presentation


San Jose City Staff Presentation on Opportunity Housing, 7/30/20

San Jose City Staff Memo: Overview of Opportunity Housing


San Jose City Staff Memo: Opportunity Housing FAQ


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