The Association of Bay Area Government’s (ABAG) Approved This RHNA Cycle’s Methodology—What’s Next?


By Gabriella Garcia 

On Oct. 7 the Non-Profit Housing Association held a virtual meeting with Berkeley’s mayor (who is also the President of the Association of Bay Area Government’s) to introduce their new plans to increase affordable housing in the nine-county Bay Area. 

This past Thursday, on Oct. 15, ABAG passed the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) methodology, contributing to the first of many steps in NPH’s Road Ahead report introduced last week.  

In 1969, California issued a state mandate which declared all California cities, towns, and counties must plan for the housing needs of its residents—regardless of income. This mandate, the Housing Element and Regional Housing Needs Allocation, requires the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) to determine the total number of new homes the Bay Area needs to meet the housing needs of its residents. 

This year, the Department of Housing and Community development determined that over 400,000 new units are going to be built by 2030 in order to meet the city’s housing needs. 

“This contemplates not only the existing housing needs but where we are going to grow, and the families who are going to move to the region,” he elaborates. “[This number] is almost three times the size that it was during last cycle.” 

The methodology proposed this week was recommended by the Housing Methodology Committee, “through a year-long community-lead process where we explored a variety of different approaches that we can take as a region to meet our housing needs”, NPH’s policy manager Rodney Nickens explains.

By approving this method, the Bay Area will address the housing crisis through local and regional policies. 

“A lot of the policy changes that have to happen, in order for more housing to be built in our communities, is going to happen at the local level through the Housing Element process… telling zoning policies at the local level to accomodate more housing…in the suburbs”, Nicken’s states. 

This cycle prioritizes “high opportunity areas,” wealthy and resourceful communities that are identified by the state government to be “prime communities to build more housing and accept more of [the Bay Area’s] housing growth.”

The RHNA is an “extensive process” according to Nickens. Several different options and approaches are discussed during each cycle to meet the needs of each jurisdiction, while taking into account their current financial limits due to the impact of the pandemic. 

Nickens explains that some options prioritized developing more housing in Santa Clara County to utilize the abundance of jobs provided in the Silicon Valley, while others–put forward by the Social Equity Advocates—would have been more aggressive in tackling racial segregation in the Bay Area. 

“Ultimately, we came to a consensus… option ‘8A,’ which prioritizes high opportunity areas, but also takes into account job proximity by auto and by transit.” 

 Some of the biggest issues low-income communities of color face is accessibility to transportation services and voter suppression—and NPH plans to address both of these obstacles.

The method agreed upon must “ensure that the Regional Housing Needs Allocation plans for the region,” Nickens claims, “but is also consistent with our long-range… regional transportation plan ‘Plan Bay Area 2050’—tackling greenhouse gas emissions, reducing mega-commutes, and addressing the impact of climate change.” 

Plan Bay Area 2050 aims to tackle issues such as pollution and climate change, while still ensuring that citizens have access to transportation services, especially in underserved communities. “We want to make sure that families that do need to get to work by vehicle [can still do so] and have access to communities that are high-resourced communities”, Nickens elaborates. These communities provide essential services such as amenities, well-resourced schools, grocery stores, community centers and libraries. 

Furthermore, Nickens believes real change can be made with the support and cooperation of departments such as the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and ABAG, “MTC and ABAG have a good amount of authority and influence over not only local jurisdiction, but transit agencies.”

Nickens states, “[The Road Ahead] paper really makes the case for the [Metropolitan Transportation Commission] and ABAG… our regional governing agencies, to step up and take the lead in ushering in a comprehensive regional strategy to address our housing emergency [and] prioritize racial justice.”

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