A Historic San Jose Home

A 112-year-old house will soon turn into affordable housing for four families thanks to a multimillion-dollar loan from a tech giant.

Habitat for Humanity Bay Area, which includes Habitat East Bay/Silicon Valley and Habitat Greater San Francisco, is receiving the $10 million loan from Mountain View-based Google to renovate and build a number of homes in six counties in the Bay Area, including more than a dozen units in San Jose. The units will be reserved for low-income first-time buyers, said representatives of the developer.

The loan is part of a billion-dollar, multi-year effort by Google to help address the lack of affordable housing in Silicon Valley.

The nonprofit developer and Google announced the partnership outside the historic Pallesen Apartments building, now located at the corner of Fourth and Reed streets, one of the first projects funded by the new loan. About 12 Google employees showed up to help with work on the site on Friday.

More than a dozen Google employees volunteered on Friday to help renovate the historic Pallesen Apartments building. Photo by Tran Nguyen.

The renovation, which would take up to a year, will turn the century-old home into new homes for four low-income families in San Jose, said Janice Jensen, president and CEO of Habitat East Bay/Silicon Valley.

The building, a Mission Revival-style quadruplex built in 1910, sat at 14 E. Reed Street for more than 100 years. It was home to a Danish immigrant couple, who also rented out the rooms to the local working class. Although the house is on the San Jose Historic Inventory List, it must be on the National Register to avoid being demolished. The historic building was due to be demolished to make way for a mixed-use project last year. Downtown residents and the Preservation Action Council successfully rallied to save the house and it was moved to its current location.

“It takes a lot of ingenuity and collaboration to build affordable property here in the Bay Area,” Jensen said. “This partnership (with Google) means we can build more and we can build faster. The loan will (facilitate) our housing pipeline and we can make affordable homeownership a possibility for more families.

Google, which plans to build a mega campus in San Jose, has already committed $200 million in community relief funds for the city over the next 10 years. San Jose recently approved Google’s $4.5 million spending on education, job training, scholarships and neighborhood programs. An advisory committee has been formed to decide how to distribute the tech titan’s remaining dollars.

Google also promised to designate 25% of the 4,000 homes in its downtown San Jose project as affordable, along with 7.3 million square feet of office space, 3,000 homes at market price, 15 acres of parks and a 30,000-50,000 square foot community center. The campus will also include 500,000 square feet for commercial, cultural, educational and artistic purposes. Construction is expected to begin next year. San Jose approved the project in 2021.

Javier Gonzalez, Google’s head of local government affairs and public policy and a native of San Jose, said Google is committed to helping local communities deal with the area’s housing crisis. Photo by Tran Nguyen.

In April, Google also awarded a $500,000 grant to groups in San Jose to aid homeless services and help build a new African American cultural center.

“The Bay Area is our home, and as we continue to grow, we are committed to helping our hometown communities solve tough problems,” said Javier Gonzalez, local government affairs and communications manager. public policies from Google and a San Jose native, noting that Google’s $1 billion commitment has helped bring affordable housing to the Bay Area online.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo praised Google for its partnership with the nonprofit developer and its willingness to work with the city.

“This partnership isn’t just about rebuilding homes, it’s about rebuilding lives and communities,” Liccardo said. “It really is an amazing opportunity to help stabilize this community.”

Downtown Councilman Raul Peralez, who played a pivotal role in saving the Pallesen Apartments building, said the renovation project served as a bridge connecting San Jose’s past to its future.

“We saved a piece of San Jose history,” Peralez said of the historic building, “Now turn it into affordable housing for our future and community members here in San Jose – that’s really just a tremendous opportunity, and it wouldn’t be possible without Google.”

Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter.

James C. Tibbs