New affordable housing site with operating farm in Santa Clara Co.

By Jana Kadah, Bay City News Foundation

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CA – “Welcome to Agrihood,” Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez said Thursday at a construction site on North Winchester Boulevard near Santana Row and the Westfield Valley Fair Mall.

Right now it’s a wasteland full of crews and cranes, but by summer 2023 there will be a 5.8-acre affordable housing site for seniors and low-income veterans with a unique twist: a working 1.7 acre farm.

“(Residents) will be surrounded by vegetable gardens and within walking distance of grocery stores, pharmacies and public transportation,” Chavez said.

The one-of-a-kind housing site will include 160 mixed-income apartments, 165 low-income seniors and veterans units and 36 townhouses.

The most notable feature – the farm – serves three purposes, Agrihood executives said. It provides nearly 20,000 pounds of food for the community; creates opportunities for volunteerism and community development; and honors the agricultural history of the Santa Clara Valley.

“It’s something we should be celebrating here in the heart of Silicon Valley,” said Kirk Vartan, a community housing activist and founder of A Slice of New York. “We want older people to be able to stay active, engaged and independent. “

Chavez said the home gardens will create a “strong bond” with the community through events such as farm-to-table pop-ups, food trucks and maybe even farmers’ markets.

“The possibilities are endless because ultimately this will be an intergenerational mixed-use and mixed-income housing development,” said Chavez.

The units will be a mix of studios and one-bedroom apartments that will cost around $ 2,100 per month in rent.

Agrihood will also have 54 permanent supportive housing units that the county will fill with elderly people who are not housed – a population that has grown further during the pandemic.

“Over 50 percent of our homeless people are seniors, aged 55 or older,” said Consuelo Hernandez, director of the Office of Supportive Housing.

This number is up from 2019 estimates, in which 40% of the homeless population was identified at 51 and over, according to the 2019 survey conducted by the county office for supportive housing. .

“Collectively, these developments will help us fill this necessary gap,” Hernandez said.

The new site in the city of Santa Clara is one of six sites that will begin construction in the county very soon, which will create 560 new units – including 367 allocated to seniors, Hernandez said.

The other five projects are the Blossom Hill Senior Apartments with 146 units; PATH villas at 4th Street with 94 units; Gallop and Mesa Apartments with 46 foster care units, formerly youth in foster care who were previously not accommodated Immanuel-Sobrato Apartments with 108 units and the redevelopment of Markham Plaza II with 152 units.

These projects are largely funded by the A Housing Bond measure passed in 2016 by county voters to help build 4,800 affordable housing units.

Agrihood, which is priced at $ 250 million, will use $ 23 million in funding from Measure A, $ 15.7 million from the City of Santa Clara and a $ 50 million grant in tax-exempt bonds of the California Debt Limit Allocation Committee.

Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor said the development is “truly the result of a collaborative, community-led process” that has been underway since 2005, when the city acquired the vacant 5.8-acre lot. .

Santa Clara City Council approved the development of the urban farm in January 2019, which Gillmor called the “anchor tenant” of this housing site.

The farm will be managed and designed by Oakland Farmscape.

“All of this (the food) will go to a farm stand (on site) which we will share with the community every week,” said Lara Hermanson, co-owner of Farmscape. “And people will be able to pay what they can over there.”

Hermanson continued that the “organic, sustainable and regenerative farm” will grow tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, squash and fresh herbs during the summer and broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce leaves, beets and carrots, among others in winter.

There, residents and community members can volunteer to prepare and harvest the farm, although there are professional staff on site to look after the vegetable gardens.

“We’re basically having a giant intergenerational hangout on this farm, so we can’t wait to see everyone there,” Hermanson said.

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