When ROEM Development Corp. won the bid to build 300 units of affordable housing followed by 200 units of senior housing south of San Jose, Calif., on what had been part of the Santa Clara County fairgrounds, they knew their plan of attack.

“We were not setting out to build a roof over our residents’ heads,” says Jonathan Emami, vice president of the Santa Clara, Calif.-based developer. “That is a great start and a great goal to fulfill, but we feel a need to take that a step further and improve the quality of life and amenities that they can utilize. We need to create a greater community. There should be no reason to be embarrassed that you live in affordable housing.”


Location: San Jose, Calif.
Builder: ROEM Builders
Developer: ROEM Development Corp.
Architect: MIRO Design Group
Opened: July 2007
No. of Units: 300
Unit Mix: One-, two- and three-bedroom apartments
Prices: $892 to $1,332 per month

ROEM executed perfectly on that end with Corde Terra Village. The Section 42 tax credit deal—273 units are set aside for households earning below 50 percent of the area median income (AMI); 25 units are set aside for households below 60 percent AMI—features market-rate architectural details, a pool and lounge area, community room, children’s playground, and fitness center. ROEM also went beyond a run-of-the-mill resident services department. In addition to traditional educational and self-improvement opportunities, residents can join a chess club or take piano lessons. There’s even a homework club to help younger residents with school.

ROEM has a particularly vested interest in those studies: Corde Terra Village sits adjacent to the neighborhood elementary school. In the spirit of community improvement, ROEM refurbished the playground and re-landscaped the entire elementary campus at no cost, as long as Corde Terra residents are permitted to use the space for after-school-hours enjoyment. “In affordable housing you want to keep people happy and focused and interacting with each other,” Emami says. “We need to think more about our immediate community and not just bricks and mortar development.”

An amazing example of greater community improvement via affordable housing development of great looking product fulfilling huge market demand. —Dave Woodward, CEO and managing partner, Laramar Communities

The people of Santa Clara County obviously agree—Corde Terra Village was 100 percent pre-leased with a waiting list of more than 600 names. “That speaks directly to the need for affordable housing here in the Bay Area and nationally as well,” Emami says.