By Gabriella Garcia
BAY AREA — On Oct. 7, the Non-Profit Housing Association (NPH) of Northern California held a meeting with the Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin to introduce their new “The Road Ahead” report and discuss comprehensive plans towards providing the Bay Area with more affordable housing.
With a population of nearly 7.8 million, the nine-county Bay Area has a severe homeless problem. The Bay Area Economic Institute found that 28,200 people are experiencing homelessness in the Bay Area—third only to New York City (76,500) and Los Angeles (55,200). The report also concluded that 70 percent of the homeless population in the Bay Area resides in three counties: Santa Clara, San Francisco and Alameda.
Partnered with the NPH, Mayor Arreguín is currently working on implementing new policies to increase access to affordable housing for the low-income residents in the Bay Area.
“Keeping people housed, preventing homelessness, creating new affordable homes, and the jobs that involve these affordable homes—that’s a critical piece in our economic recovery [out of Covid-19]”, stated Arreguín, who is also president of the Association of the Bay Area Government. This plan includes what he calls “the 3 P’s”: protection of existing tenants, preservation of housing and production of new affordable housing.
In response to the Bay Area’s need for affordable housing, Policy Manager of the NPH Rodney Nickens explained, “69% of low-income households in the Bay Area are housing cost-burdened [tenets] and 4 million California renters are on the verge of eviction.”
Racial discrimination and injustice is a prominent issue in low-income communities, especially for people of color. “At only 6.5% of the state’s population, our African-American community is bearing the brunt of our state’s homelessness crisis… black residents represent 40% of the state’s unhoused population,” Nickens said.
In coordination with UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy, the UCLA Center for Neighborhood Knowledge found that during Covid-19, Black and Latino renters are “more than twice as likely as whites to be experiencing rent-related hardships.” Minority renters are more likely to be suffering economically during the pandemic, because they are disproportionately more concentrated in the low-income and lower-education brackets, and entered the crisis with fewer financial and human capital resources.
With the end of the CDC’s moratorium on evictions, Nickens says this is the “opportunity to choose a different path.”
While both NPH and Arreguín believe this is a regional issue that requires a regional and local approach, polls show that residents feel the same.
“79% of [Bay Area] voters identify affordable housing as the number 1 funding priority for the region” and “75% support a regional approach,” Nickens revealed.
NPH’s “The Road Ahead” plan includes the Plan Bay Area 2050, “a long-range regional plan… which will direct the appropriations of bills of transportation investments over the next decade, while helping cities and counties identify where to locate growth, new homes, and jobs.”
Moreover, the Regional Housing Needs Allocation process requires the region to “plan for future housing needs for the next eight years, while designing strategies to address existing housing affordability, patterns of residential segregation, and exclusionary zoning practices.”
Nickens also calls on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and ABAG to “expand a housing portfolio,” stating, “We need that to better define the roles of ABAG and MTC, as well as the Bay Area Housing Financing Authority.”
MTC is currently evaluating programs like the One Bay Area Grant Program and the Priority Development Area Program, according to Nickens, to determine “how to refine these programs to better align more robust housing outcomes.”
More equitable access to public transportation is a key element in reducing housing inequality and income segregation. In 2017, the National Academies Press found that transportation costs are a barrier to mobility for households in poverty, disproportionately represented by African Americans and Hispanics. Moreover, long commutes and high transportation costs are significant barriers to employment and financial stability.
As a means to provide equitable access to both housing and transportation, NPH proposes three policy recommendations. “Our big proposal is to go all in,” Nickens declared. “In our paper, we […] provide concrete recommendations on what [the 3 P’s] would look like in practice and specific strategies on how we operationalize this approach.”
Part of the Road Ahead’s plan includes preserving 30,000 affordable homes before 2025 (86% market-rate, 14% at-risk/deed-restricted); supply technical assistance so local jurisdiction can implement demolition controls, relocation assistance and 1-1 replacement requirements (SB 330); create minimum standards and incentivize cities/counties to ask impacted residents where preservation is most needed; producing 35,000 homes a year (40% lower-incomes, 20% moderate, 40% market-rate); building transit villages in communities experiencing the most growth.
“Housing justice is racial justice”, Nickens asserted. “We have the tools that we need to break down the barriers of exclusion and displacement, we do so by building affordable housing throughout the regions—especially in our region’s exclusionary, whiter, suburban jurisdictions.”
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