San Jose OK’d $45 million in fee waivers for downtown developers — with little housing to show for it

By Maggie Angst, The Mercury News, February 10, 2022

“City records reveal that since 2007, just four high-rise housing projects totaling 1,552 units have been completed under the city’s [construction-related fee] waiver program — nearly 1,000 units fewer than previously stated by the city’s Office of Economic Development.

“Of the approximately $45 million in approved waivers, only about $25 million has been captured at this point because the projects must be completed for developers to benefit.

“Despite the generous incentives, a handful of approved projects have still struggled to pencil out, including one site that’s headed for an auction and foreclosure and another that was recently bought out after the first developer defaulted on its development agreement with the city.

“One of the program’s largest proponents, Mayor Sam Liccardo, acknowledged in an interview the waiver offers have yet to produce the desired number of housing units, but noted he’s not ready to end it.

“Jeffrey Buchanan of Working Partnerships USA called the program a ‘troubling exercise’ in giving millions of dollars in subsidies to a handful of wealthy, well-connected developers.

“Within the next year, the city council is expected to again weigh whether to extend the program to encourage developers to move those projects past the goal line. Because the fees aren’t officially waived until their projects are built and occupied, the city needs to extend the Jan. 1, 2025 expiration date for those that won’t be finished by then.”

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