On a busy street in the suburban Silicon Valley town of Santa Clara, sitting next to a strip mall and across from larger shopping centers, a new mixed-income housing complex will come with an unusual amenity: its own working farm.
“Not only are we providing a really unique living experience for the residents that live on the property, but we’re also taking a very deliberate approach to encouraging the health and wellness of our residents by incorporating the farm, hopefully, into their daily and weekly lifestyles,” says Vince Cantore, vice president of development with the Core Companies, the developer leading the project, called Agrihood.
The development, funded in part by an affordable housing bond passed in the county, will provide 165 apartments for low-income seniors and veterans, 160 market-rate units with 10% reserved for people with moderate incomes, and 36 townhomes, all next to the 1.5-acre farm that can grow up to 20,000 pounds of produce each year. Farmscape, an urban farming company based in Oakland, will manage the farm and bring the organically-grown, hyper-local produce to a location on the site each week for residents to buy at a deep discount. Some residents in the affordable housing complex will also have access to community garden plots.
The inspiration came in part from Santa Clara’s history: A century ago, much of the city was covered in orchards. The site where Agrihood is now being constructed was previously a demonstration farm; more recently, the land was vacant. The city, which owned the land and still acts as a landlord for the affordable portion of the development, imposed a requirement for open space. While some larger developments with single-family homes are also beginning to include farms, Agrihood is unusual because of its urban setting. “It’s just an incredibly dense site,” Cantore says. “It’s 5.8 acres, and we have 365 units, and a farm space, and a cafe space, and a community room space, and a shed space.”
The development is also somewhat unusual in its diversity; instead of senior housing sitting alone, or affordable housing alone, it’s designed to be a mix of generations and incomes. Because the site is surrounded by retail stores, residents can also run most errands on foot.
The new housing is critical for the Bay Area, where there’s an estimated shortage of 160,000 affordable housing units. Cantore says he wants to see the development replicated. “This is a project that’s going to go a long way to helping to meet the needs of seniors and senior veterans,” he says. “But there’s so many seniors on fixed incomes that have housing needs that, unfortunately, it just won’t be able to be met by one individual project alone.”