Upon entering Hillview Court Apartments (formerly Extended Stay America), one encounters a wide front lobby. Every day, a resident comes down to it to leave a fresh display of photos and flowers. These items serve as a warm welcome for anyone walking through the doors of 1000 Hillview Court. Touches like these go a long way toward bringing some warmth to the newly-transitioned property.
Hillview Court is unique in that it’s an affordable community, made possible by funding from the CARES Act. Last year, $846 million in funding was put toward California’s Project Homekey in an effort to help people without homes get off the street during the COVID-19 pandemic. Across California, nearly 100 buildings were purchased and converted into apartments to provide long-term housing for those experiencing homelessness.
Jamboree, the development company behind Hillview Court, has had projects like this one in the past. Those usually took 3-5 years to develop, from acquisition all the way to completed construction.
This one was different. With the State required to provide the funds by the end of 2020, Jamboree’s usual pre-development timeline was compressed to 90 days.
Since the Hillview Court property had recently served as an Extended Stay America hotel, the process to transition into studio apartments had not been particularly arduous.
“Homekey funds do come with certain benchmarks a developer must meet, such as achieving 50% occupancy by March. Jamboree will meet or exceed that requirement,” Jamboree’s Senior Director Roger Kinoshita told The Beat. “One of the compelling reasons to acquire Hillview Court is that the property was in excellent condition and would require little renovation in order to convert the hotel rooms into apartments for the new residents.”
In January of 2021, residents began moving into Milpitas’ Hillview Court community.
All apartments are fully furnished and thoroughly cleaned before residents arrive. Surfaces are cleaned and wiped down, and everything is sterilized.
Currently, Hillview Court is at 50% occupancy. Sixty-six households have moved into the property, which has a total of 134 studio apartments. Two of the apartments are for on-site staff.
The Hillview Court community has a Supportive Services team that is available to help households in a number of ways. The team provides information about services and programs, helps with accessing programs through referrals, and even coordinates on-site social and supportive services.
In the future, Jamboree’s Housing With Heart (HWH) service team will be providing residents with adult education services, leading workshops and events based around vocational skills such as resume building, interviewing, and budgeting; self-development objectives including anger management; health and wellness; and even recreational activities like cooking and arts and crafts.
Case managers are also on-site Monday through Friday.
“It’s been very smooth. Residents are loving it here. They’re happy, they’re transitioning in really well. And they’re grateful,” Jessie Hernandez, Portfolio Manager for FPI Management (which manages the property), told The Beat.
In September of 2020, when news of the Hillview Court project came about, some in Milpitas voiced their opposition, saying that it was unsafe to have unhoused residents in the area while citing concerns about alcoholism, mental health, and the potential for increased crime. The Milpitas City Council even contemplated filing a lawsuit against the State and County of Santa Clara for moving forward on the project without any input from the City. However, the Council eventually voted not to proceed with any litigation efforts. A group of community members then took up the task, trying to file their own lawsuit. But the judge shot down their attempts.
After contacting the Milpitas Police Department about whether or not crime statistics in the area have changed, The Beat received a breakdown of crimes that happened within a half-mile radius of the facility. This breakdown is from the department’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) list, which is based in major crimes that police departments voluntarily report to the federal government.
From December 1, 2019 to February 17, 2020, 15 crimes were reported within a quarter-mile radius of the property, which was a hotel at the time.
From December 1, 2020 to February 17, 2021, 9 crimes were reported within a quarter-mile radius of the property, which was turned into the Hillview Court Apartments in January.
Based on the data, crime has gone down in the area, although Acting Chief of Police Jared Hernandez said that the period is too short to identify any kind of trend.
Next month, Jamboree plans to build out the common areas on the ground floor. The lobby area, along with some first floor units, will be remodeled and redesigned into common area amenities for residents. In total, there will be over 4,000 square feet of new community rooms (which include counseling and group counseling rooms, a lounge area, and multipurpose room with a kitchen), along with case management and management offices.
All units at Hillview Court are expected to be filled by May or June of this year.