Affordable housing for veterans, low-income tenants breaks ground in Mountain View

Published in The Mercury News

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A $33 million affordable housing development — the first in Mountain View to set aside units just for military veterans — broke ground on Monday.

The new Eagle Park Apartments at 1701 W. El Camino Real will have 62 studios and five one-bedroom apartments. Tenants will be low-income veterans and households earning up to 60 percent of the county’s median income.

Candice Gonzalez, president and chief executive officer of Palo Alto Housing, asked attendees gathered for the groundbreaking celebration to imagine the people that Eagle Park will serve.

Some tenants will be workers in Silicon Valley schools, cafés and grocery stores eager to end their hours-long commutes to minimum wage jobs, Gonzalez said. Other tenants will be veterans, some who are homeless and ready to move in the same day.

“Tears are in our eyes as we show these veterans a little bit of gratitude,” Gonzalez said. “This is not a dream. … This will happen in fall 2018.”

Gonzalez also commended Mountain View, which is contributing $8 million to the project, as a city that understands that “with economic growth comes the need for more housing.”

Mountain View Mayor Ken Rosenberg said the city is proud to be a partner and the project is the successful collaboration of eight entities: the city of Mountain View, Santa Clara County, U.S. Bancorp, the state Department of Housing and Community Development, the state Veterans Housing and Homelessness Prevention Program, the state Department of Veterans Affairs, the California Housing Finance Agency and Google.

Rosenberg also said the city’s investment is possible because of “other cranes and construction sites you see around Mountain View.”

The city charges impact fees on new development that helps fund affordable housing.

The five-story Eagle Park Apartments will be on the same block as market rate apartments and grocery stores, restaurants, pharmacies and public transit.

Studio apartments are about 400 square feet and monthly rent ranges between $627 to $1,254 depending on income level. One-bedroom apartments are about 600 square feet and going for $672 to $1,344.
Residents cannot make more than 60 percent of the area median income. The maximum income is $50,160 for a single tenant, $57,360 for a household of two and $64,500 for three.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian said it’s no easy feat to coordinate eight stakeholders and go “beyond the talk” and “paying lip service to veterans” in addressing the affordable housing crisis in Silicon Valley.

The project is proof that “if we all pool together, we can make it happen,” Simitian said. “Today it’s not just words.”

The affordable housing will be “a hand up” for veterans who too often become homeless after deployment, suffering from physical and mental health issues as a result of their service, said Sergio Mondragon-Lopez, a program manager for CalVet, specifically the state’s Housing and Homelessness Prevention efforts.

A whopping 42 percent of the country’s unsheltered veterans are in California, Mondragon-Lopez said. In 2016, the San Jose and Santa Clara County region had 701 homeless veterans, including those who temporarily stay in shelters and other sites.