Housing Affordability Still Biggest Issue in San Jose, Says Local Expert
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If you ask Strangis Properties owner Jerry Strangis what he’s worked on during the more than four decades of his career, he’ll tell you he’s worked on just about everything. The San Jose real estate agent, consultant and lobbyist has worked alongside developers and homeowners, tech firms, power plants and medical cannabis dispensaries.
Strangis’ political career started when he ran for San Jose City Council in 1980. Ever since then, he’s been involved in land transactions, entitlement work and land-use changes. When a real estate project starts to get complicated, Strangis said, developers and others call him to help sort things out.
Bisnow spoke with Strangis (above with his wife and business partner, Janet Strangis) about some of the biggest issues in San Jose and one of the biggest projects Strangis is currently working on.
Strangis said the biggest regional issue right now is affordability and housing.
“Everybody wants a single-family home with a yard,” he said. “But from a price standpoint, it’s becoming prohibitive and impacts the whole economy."
He said San Jose is one of the most expensive metros and in one of the biggest bubbles. “[The housing situation] is definitely having an impact on the quality of life,” he said.
Since people can’t afford to live here, they end up moving to places like Hollister and commuting to Cupertino, he said.
Strangis said there’s been some minor softening and the pace of appreciation is more normal, but there are still pockets with irrational pricing. His wife, a residential real estate agent, listed a teardown in the Willow Glenn neighborhood for $800k and within two days she received nine offers for $950k.
Despite the housing crunch and ongoing lack of affordability, Strangis said the economy is robust, there is a strong job market and it’s a fun time to be in the real estate business.
“I have more business than I can handle,” he said.
He said the city tries to be efficient when it comes to working with businesses and developers, but bureaucracy and politics often get in the way. He’s been pushing back against NIMBYism and general policies that have made housing prohibitive.
One of the biggest housing projects he’s worked on is the development of Communications Hill, a 500-acre island in the middle of San Jose. The land is being transformed from an old dairy farm owned by the Bettencourt family into a 55-acre mixed-use community with over 4,000 houses and 1.4M SF of industrial space, according to Strangis (above at Communications Hill). A retail center also is planned.
The development is part of the city’s master plan, which was created in 1992 to develop this area. KB Homes is working on the project in phases and is currently working on the second phase.
Strangis said the most interesting phenomenon of this development is the controversy surrounding a large staircase that has turned into a huge fitness hot spot. As the staircase became popular, people gathered to party and partake in illicit activities.
This led to the drafting and passage of state legislation to reclassify the staircase as a trail with set hours instead of a thoroughfare that is open 24/7. The development will add additional staircases and 4.5 miles of trails encircling the whole hill. There will also be plaques about the history of San Jose and six staircases, Strangis said.
Strangis said he’s also been working with the Tuscany Hills Homeowners Association to turn an undeveloped area into a working vineyard. He said residents will benefit from increased home values and receive discounts at a wine bar added to the Commercial Village Center. Strangis is now learning about backyard vineyards and what it takes to create a vineyard.
“This is one of the most challenging projects to do because the city has never done it,” Strangis said.
But Strangis is up to the challenge and enjoys learning new things and working through complicated situations.
“Politics is my hobby. Politics is interesting. Some people know it and love it and live it or don’t want anything to do with it,” he said. “For me, I am able to benefit from it.”
Strangis is a longtime resident of San Jose. He and his wife were high school sweethearts, and he went to San Jose State University. He loves San Jose and the Bay Area with its good climate, robust economy and good living environment, and he loves his job.
“It’s always fun to take a call from someone who has a real need,” Strangis said. “I could go elsewhere and make more money, but I don’t need to.”