By David M. Greenwald
The report is not surprising but it is stark. A report this week on Bay Area housing costs showed that a significant majority of the extremely low-income households living in the Bay Area spend more than half their earnings just to pay rent. This leaves them extremely vulnerable with “little money to pay for other necessities, such as food, transportation, diapers, and other necessary bills and household costs.”
In advance of the release of the May Revise by Governor Gavin Newsom, affordable housing advocates are renewing a push for more affordable housing funding as the newest set of reports from California Housing Partnership “provides a glimpse into the reality of people living and working severely housing cost-burdened in the Bay Area.”
Across the nine Bay Area counties, the report found “nearly 70% (69.6%) of extremely low-income households are severely cost-burdened, meaning they spend more than half of their income on housing costs alone. This is compared to the only 1% of moderate-income households on average in the Bay Area who are severely cost-burdened.”
The median rental prices for each Bay Area county are “out of reach for working people earning the minimum wage (and beyond), as the median rental price in each county requires a wage of at least $31.43/hour—and up to $55.69/hour in San Francisco County.”
Moreover, there is a sizable shortfall of over 200,000 affordable homes in just those five counties.
“The severe shortage of affordable housing in the Bay Area, along with the fact that the state budget currently contains a historic surplus, clearly demonstrates that state lawmakers have a unique opportunity and moral incentive to prioritize the production of affordable homes now,” said Pedro Galvao, Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California (NPH) Policy Director.
Advocates say these reports underscore the severe housing cost burden experienced by those with extremely low incomes. But they also believe there are opportunities for meaningful change that can advance housing justice for all our neighbors, regardless of their race or income.
The NPH for example is recommending an investment of $3 billion “in order to clear the California Housing and Community Development (HCD) backlog of shovel-ready affordable housing developments and start building today—creating desperately needed homes for Bay Area workers.”
They would also like to see an investment of $18.5 billion in a pilot program for the Bay Area Housing Finance Authority (BAHFA), “so it can begin its critical work of addressing the region’s housing and displacement crises.”
“It doesn’t have to be this way,” said Amie Fishman, NPH Executive Director. “We already know what must be done to make real progress toward housing justice, which includes preventing homelessness, producing more affordable housing, preserving existing affordable housing and long-standing neighborhoods, and protecting tenants from displacement.”
She added, “What is needed now is the political will and courage to do what is right for all of us. Because when our neighbors thrive—especially our Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, and all people of color neighbors, who suffer disproportionately from exclusionary housing policies—we all thrive.”
The report also calls for statewide policy recommendations designed to provide relief to low-income families struggling with unaffordable and unstable housing.
Among these are a call to initiate around $10 billion in a statewide housing bond which would fund another five years of affordable housing while permanently funding local governments to implement flexible homelessness solutions by recapturing $2.4 billion per year lost through corporate tax loopholes and reductions.
They would also like to make permanent the $500 million expansion of the state’s Low-Income Housing Tax Credit which they believe would “increase affordable housing production through public/private partnerships.”
“As state leaders prepare to finalize the coming budget, we urge them to also set clear long-term goals so that the uses of this year’s surplus are framed as down payments on the sustained investments at scale that our region and state need,” said Matt Schwartz, President and CEO of California Housing Partnership. “The Roadmap Home 2030 offers four clear goals with a long-term path to end homelessless, close the affordable housing gap, protect low-income workers, and advance racial equity.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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