By David M. Greenwald
Affordable housing has been a crisis in California, but a new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition on Thursday found that the problem is nationwide with a shortage of 6.8 million rental homes affordable and available to extremely low-income renters, whose household incomes are at or below the poverty guideline or 30 percent of their area median income.
Overall the report found that there are just 37 affordable and available rental homes for every 100 extremely low-income renter household.
The report highlights an across-the-nation, systemic shortage of rental housing for extremely low-income households.
The report also points to the racial disparities that exist among extremely low-income renters, a remnant of centuries of anti-Black discrimination and other inequities that our Black and Brown neighbors continue to contend with today.
“Housing is the foundation for strong, thriving, and equitable communities,” said Amie Fishman, NPH Executive Director in a release on Thursday.
She added, “As a society, we all win when we prioritize healthier, thriving people, families, and communities. When we lose long standing communities through disinvestment and exclusionary policies, we lose what makes the Bay Area a great place to live — our diverse cultures and ethnicities, age groups, languages, backgrounds, family compositions, and more.”
Among the key findings:
California experiences, not surprisingly, the highest shortage of affordable housing at over 960,000. However, the report makes clear that “no single state in the nation possesses an adequate supply of affordable homes for extremely low-income renters.”
Nevertheless, per capita, “California falls in the bottom five states offering affordable, accessible, and available homes to our community members, with only 24 affordable homes for every 100 people in need.”
Furthermore, the Bay Area is even worse, with “a shortage of more than 160,000 affordable homes, with less than 35 affordable homes for every 100 people in need. “
The report also provides data that show “Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian households are more likely than white households to be extremely low-income renters, owing to decades of disinvestment in communities of color along with racist and exclusionary housing policies that have systematically disadvantaged people of color.”
“The Bay Area’s ethnically diverse residents, including our artists, help keep our diverse cultures alive, vibrant, and cherished in our communities,” said Ryan Nicole Austin, Eastside Arts Alliance.
She added, “And yet, too many of our artists and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) neighbors struggle to get by, due in large part to the shortage of housing that is accessible and affordable. The fact is that the region’s housing crisis disproportionately impacts our Black and Brown neighbors. We need tangible change now, before it’s too late for our Bay Area residents.”
The report is based on 2019 data, meaning that the pandemic’s effects are not reflected in the figures.
However, the report believes that, if anything, “COVID-19 and the resulting economic fallout have no doubt worsened circumstances for low-income renters since then, resulting in even more job losses, evictions, and additional affordable housing shortages.”
“Our current public health crisis demonstrates how necessary stable, affordable homes are for all of our health, and the importance of tackling racial inequities head on”, said Will Dominie, Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative.
He added, “It is time to treat this challenge with the same urgency we’ve brought to the pandemic. We’ve diagnosed the issue; our lawmakers must begin treatment.”
The analysis underscores this unique moment’s calls for meaningful change in housing policy that can lead to housing and racial justice for all Bay Area residents, no matter their race or income.
NPH, (Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California) has three main recommendations:
- Federal policy recommendations: Affordable housing must be included as essential infrastructure in all stimulus and recovery packages
- State policy recommendations: Critical policies, as detailed through NPH’s 2020-21 legislative priorities, must be anchored in big, bold systems change to enact urgent statewide policies now, while advancing long-term shifts toward housing and racial justice. Bills under consideration, such as SB 5 and AB 71, would offer critically needed substantial investments. ACA 1 and SCA 2 would expand democracy to make lasting impact for all of our black, white, and brown neighbors.
- Regional policy recommendations: The Bay Area faces an exciting opportunity in its innovative approach to bring and scale a regional strategy towards housing through Bay Area Housing Finance Authority (BAHFA.) MTC and ABAG have identified five pilot programs that will enable the region to address urgent housing challenges facing Bay Area residents, such as the risks of displacement due to rent increases, which now must be funded through the State Legislative process.
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