MidPen Opens New Affordable Workforce Housing in Downtown San Jose

One of California’s first Pay for Success housing sites where 20 of the over 100 apartments provide homes for the formerly homeless

County of Santa Clara Supervisor Cindy Chavez and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo celebrate the Grand Opening of Donner Lofts with other housing leaders and community partners.

On March 30th, Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, joined other community leaders and members to celebrate the Grand Opening of Donner Lofts, an affordable rental apartment community developed by MidPen Housing. Donner Lofts is one of the first housing sites for Project Welcome Home, the first Pay for Success initiative launched in the State of California.

Donner Lofts addresses the immense need for affordable workforce housing in one of the nation’s top most expensive metropolitan areas where skyrocketing rents have contributed to a homeless epidemic affecting a growing number of households.

“I’d lived in San Jose my entire life when I found myself homeless here,” said Miguel Vargas, a Donner Lofts resident. “Even with a full-time job at the San Jose Airport, when my living situation changed, I could no longer afford the rent and spent nearly a year living out of my car. I persevered and thankfully was able to keep my employment but it’s sure a lot easier now that I have a wonderful place to live that I can afford!”

As further evidence of the need, within the brief application period, Donner Lofts received over 1,500 applications and currently has 1,450 on the waitlist which is closed.

“We continue to face an affordable housing crisis here in our community, with far too many of our residents struggling to keep up with rising rents,” said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. “That’s why we’re so pleased to welcome the opening of Donner Lofts, which provides affordable homes for another 100 local families right here in our downtown with convenient access to public transit.”

Donner Lofts is one of the very first housing sites in California to provide homes for participants in the innovative public/private Pay for Success (PFS) model. PFS is a funding model that drives government resources toward social programs that provide positive results to the people who need them most. Program effectiveness is tracked over time and requires governments to pay for those services only if and when they succeed in measurably improving the lives of people most in need. Private investors are tapped to cover the upfront costs of the programs. If the program proves effective, the government repays those who made the initial investment.

Project Welcome Home was launched by the County of Santa Clara as the first PFS initiative in the State of California. Backed by private investors including Google, the Sobrato Foundation and the Health Trust and in partnership with Abode Services, a leading provider of innovative housing services, the County will serve 150 – 200 chronically homeless individuals through permanent supportive housing in a way that measurably improves their lives and the degree to which they require higher-cost services. Twenty of those formerly homeless individuals who are part of Project Welcome Home are now residents at Donner Lofts.

Mayor Liccardo

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo speaking at the Donner Lofts Grand Opening.

“Donner Lofts is a great housing partner for our Pay for Success initiative,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez. “After all, this is where Eliza Donner once lived after being orphaned in the Donner Party tragedy. With the support and care of others, she was finally able to live in a home on this very site. Today people who were once homeless will live in a centralized location and have all the services they need to live productive lives.”

“We’re proud to partner with the City of San Jose on their vision to transform an underutilized downtown site into a vibrant, mixed-use community,” said Jan Lindenthal, Vice President of Real Estate Development for MidPen Housing, “And we’re thrilled to be one of the first housing partners associated with the County’s innovative Project Welcome Home initiative.”

Named in honor of Eliza Donner, a surviving member of the Donner Party, the mixed-use community is located on the site of her former home, the Donner-Houghton estate, which was a city landmark prior to its destruction in a 2007 fire. Donner Lofts provides 92 workforce efficiency studios and 9 one-bedroom apartments serving individuals earning up to 50% of Area Media Income which is $39,100 for a single-person household. The development also includes a community room, computer room, an exercise facility, a common courtyard and ground-floor retail space.

Donner Lofts achieved LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. The high-density, transit-oriented infill site utilized environmentally sustainable building practices and incorporates measures to reduce energy usage. Green building features include solar photovoltaic panels and solar thermal hot water heating, ENERGY STAR appliances and high efficiency lighting and plumbing.

In partnership with a network of service providers, MidPen Resident Services Corp. will coordinate and manage many onsite programs for all Donner Loft residents including financial literacy courses, vocational development, computer lab assistance; health and wellness programs and access to other community resources. In collaboration with Abode Services and the County of Santa Clara Department of Behavioral Health Services, the 20 formerly homeless residents will receive additional supportive services which include case management to address individual needs and social integration services to promote a sense of community and connection. MidPen Property Management Corp. will provide onsite professional property management.

Financing for the $30.8M development was provided by the City of San Jose, the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Clara, County of Santa Clara Department of Behavioral Health Services, California Department of Housing and Community Development, CalHFA, Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, California Tax Credit Allocation Committee and Bank of America Merrill Lynch.