Regional Solutions for a Regional Crisis
In October 2019, Governor Newsom signed AB 1487 into law establishing the Bay Area Housing Finance Authority, which is a new authority under the oversight of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG). It gives the new regional agency the power to raise, administer, and allocate funding for affordable housing in the San Francisco Bay Area, and it will provide technical assistance for the development of tenant protection, affordable housing preservation, and affordable housing production policies — the “3Ps” framework that Public Advocates and our partners in the 6 Wins Network have advocated for.
After the passage of AB 1487, the bill’s co-sponsors, Enterprise Community Partners and Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California (NPH), invited Managing Attorney Richard Marcantonio and Law Fellow Shajuti Hossain to participate in their Technical Working Group, which is guiding the bill’s implementation. The Technical Working Group first met on December 19, 2019 and will continue meeting throughout 2020. The Working Group will discuss and negotiate which revenue mechanism(s) we will ask MTC and ABAG to place on the ballot measure proposed under the bill. Other members of the Technical Working Group include our partners, Urban Habitat and Western Center on Law and Poverty, as well as affordable housing developers, business interests, and staff of local government agencies.
Enterprise and NPH have also created an Outreach Working Group to coordinate with local elected officials on the potential measure. 6 Wins members on the Technical and Outreach Working Groups are interested in advancing this work with an equity lens. Public Advocates staff, along with other 6 Wins members and allies, will be pushing the Technical Working Group to ensure that the revenue mechanisms on the November 2020 ballot will fund tenant protections first.
The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) are close to finalizing two long-term regional transportation and housing plans — Plan Bay Area 2050 (PBA) and the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA). In February 2021, we joined 6 Wins for Social Equity Network members and the Bay Area Community Land Trust in a letter calling on the agencies to:
● Prioritize solutions that immediately stop displacement and prevent homelessness;
● Adopt an actionable, anti-displacement rubric and timeline for meaningful community engagement;
● Support a right to counsel for tenants facing eviction and create a regional rental registry;
● Provide direct funding for housing preservation;
● Support deeply affordable housing production on public land; and
● Create a land bank strategy to acquire or finance the acquisition of sites designated for permanent supportive housing.
This coming summer, the agencies will continue public outreach and then release the Final Implementation Plan in the fall. The new Bay Area Housing Finance Authority (BAHFA) will be the acting vehicle for some of these implementation steps over the next 30 years. Shajuti is co-leading work with our 6 Wins partners to ensure that BAHFA implements our recommendations. In April and May, she will be serving on MTC’s selection panel for a team of consultants who will plan BAHFA’s initial years of work.
Regional planning agencies are also completing the RHNA process, which is undertaken every eight years to determine how much housing growth each city and county must accommodate. In January, ABAG adopted a draft RHNA which includes an equity adjustment to help ensure that racially and economically exclusive cities and counties in the Bay Area actively combat segregation by accommodating more affordable housing than they have before. Currently, 49 jurisdictions in the region have been identified as exclusionary by ABAG, including cities such as Ross, Atherton, Hillsborough, and Monte Sereno, which have almost no multifamily zoning or affordable housing in their communities. The equity adjustment is the direct result of persistent advocacy over the past two years by Public Advocates, the 6 Wins, and other Bay Area housing justice partners.
As the Department of Housing and Community Development reviews ABAG’s draft RHNA, Public Advocates submitted a letter reminding the agency of its obligation under state law to look explicitly at race and racial exclusion across the region. This obligation arises out of California’s 2018 affirmatively furthering fair housing law, for which Public Advocates led the push.
Voices for Public Transportation Campaign Builds Momentum
Our campaign to win a transformative Green New Deal for Public Transportation in the Bay Area continues to build momentum heading. On November 13, 2019 we held a second large meeting of our coalition, Voices for Public Transportation (VPT). More than 50 participants from dozens of community and labor organizations refined the campaign’s goals for a potential $50–100 billion regional transportation funding measure.
Following the meeting, Richard Marcantonio and other coalition leaders took the campaign’s priorities into a meeting with Senator Jim Beall, chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. Senator Beall, who is the sponsor of a bill to authorize the regional ballot measure, expressed strong agreement with key VPT goals and priorities. Among other things, he reiterated that the bill would focus on public transportation, not roads; expressed interest in funding coalition priorities like transit operations and fare reduction; expressed deep concern over the displacement-inducing impacts of major capital projects; and showed interest in our proposed progressive revenue sources.
The authorizing legislation will come up for committee hearings prior to the January 31 deadline for a Senate floor vote. Our VPT coalition will meet again on February 5, 2020. In the meantime, Meantime, the executive board of the Alameda Labor Council has become the coalition’s latest endorsement.
Regional Housing and Transportation Advocacy
Over the next two years the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) will be undertaking a little known but critically important planning process to determine how and where the Bay Area plans for housing growth over the next decade. The Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) process identifies projected housing needs at different income levels on a regional basis and assigns a share of those needs to each city and county in the region. In 2018 we won new fair housing requirements for the RHNA with the passage of AB 1771, which we helped draft. It requires the RHNA to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing by increasing access for people of color and immigrants to high opportunity areas. Shajuti Hossain has been coordinating a RHNA Equity Working Group, which includes 6 Wins members and allies, to ensure that high-resource suburbs take on a fair share of growth and welcome affordable housing. The Working Group is developing strategies to advance equity through ABAG’s Housing Methodology Committee, proposing metrics to ensure that the RHNA affirmatively furthers fair housing, and engaging with ABAG staff.
Building Coalition Power & Advancing Equitable Housing Production Policies
On October 1, 2019, Public Advocates co-convened a second statewide meeting of community-based advocates on equitable housing production. More than 40 participants from 27 organizations around the state strengthened and develop our work advancing a state-level strategy for promoting housing production that benefits, and does not harm, low-income communities of color.
Public Advocates has been fostering collaboration and collective power building among equity groups around housing production for a number of years, and we are excited to see this work growing. One major product of this effort is AB 1279 (Bloom), a bill that Public Advocates is co-sponsoring to promote more mixed-income and affordable housing development in areas with wealth and other resources where low-income people have been denied an opportunity to live for generations. AB 1279 bill passed the Assembly last year and is currently before the Senate Housing Committee.
Our network of equity groups was also engaged in the debates over SB 50, the measure introduced last year by Senator Scott Weiner to foster high density development on residential land near transit stops, and which failed on a Senate floor vote in late January. Based on the idea that unleashing market forces will solve the housing crisis, SB 50 raised serious concerns with dozens of our allies about the lack of adequate affordable housing requirements, lack of protections for vulnerable communities, and ways the bill could have spurred gentrification and displacement.
Regional Agencies Commit to Critical Action Plan to Tackle Housing Affordability & Displacement Crisis in the Bay Area
Since 2014, the 6 Wins Network has advocated for a regional plan — called Plan Bay Area — that includes meaningful strategies to tackle the housing affordability and displacement crisis. In July of 2017 the regional planning agencies– Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), approved a strong regional affordable housing and anti-displacement policy agenda as part of Plan Bay Area, as urged by advocates. Read Public Advocates’ press release about the vote here.
Early on, we won new performance goals for Plan Bay Area, including affordable housing and anti-displacement goals. When MTC and ABAG, the regional planning agencies, modeled how Plan Bay Area performed against these key equity goals, they found that it “moved in the wrong direction.” For example, under Plan Bay Area, an additional 250,000 low-income Bay Area residents will be at risk of displacement by 2040.
That was unacceptable, so 6 Wins, with the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California (NPH) and Greenbelt Alliance, advocated for an “Action Plan” that would include concrete strategies to specifically help the region meet these goals. In November 2016, MTC and ABAG agreed to include an Action Plan. After staff released a draft Action Plan in March that didn’t go far enough, we sent recommendations for making it more ambitious and more specific.
On direction from MTC and ABAG, staff worked with the 6 Wins Network and our allies to strengthen the Action Plan, and on July 10th, they released proposed revisions to the Action Plan that significantly reflected our recommendations. On July 26th, MTC and ABAG approved the final Plan Bay Area 2040, including the changes to the Action Plan.
The 6 Wins strongly supports the Action Plan, which includes the following actions:
- Regional affordable housing funds: Develop a plan for generating regional revenues for affordable housing production and preservation.
- Regional affordable housing programs: Build on and expand regional housing policy successes such as the Preservation Pilot and the Transit-Oriented Affordable Housing program.
- State affordable housing and anti-displacement legislation: Support state legislation and funding, including a permanent source of affordable housing funding, increasing community stabilization and lessening displacement risk, and incentivizing developers to create low-income housing.
- Affordable housing incentives in regional transportation funding: Expand housing conditions and incentives in both new and existing transportation funding sources, and report to the Commission on all discretionary funding sources where such conditions may be added.
- Public land for affordable housing: Develop a strategy for facilitating affordable housing development on public land near transit.
- Local anti-displacement policies: Provide technical assistance to local jurisdictions on community stabilization and anti-displacement policies, and create an online Policy Directory with examples of local ordinances that address community stabilization.
In addition, the Action Plan requires staff to report twice a year to MTC and ABAG on Action Plan progress and implementation, and it explicitly ties the actions to a new regional blue ribbon committee on housing affordability, called CASA.
Decades of inequitable policy choices have systematically excluded low-income communities of color from opportunity by promoting segregation and disinvestment, while creating an environment marked by sprawl, heavy dependence on cars, and the creation of highways that pollute the low income neighborhoods they cross.
A California state law, SB 375, aims to decrease sprawl, driving and pollution by requiring regional agencies to coordinate planning decisions that would bring housing, jobs and transit closer together through a regional plan called Plan Bay Area. This plan provides a powerful opening for redrawing the map of opportunity and exclusion. We can use it to challenge regional and local public policies across the Bay Area that siphon resources away from disadvantaged communities and isolate those communities from opportunity.
Regional Planning Process
The Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) (part of Plan Bay Area) is adopted every four years by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the Bay Area’s transportation funding and planning agency. The RTP establishes priorities for spending almost $300 billion in public transportation funding over the next 25 years. Through the plan, MTC decides how much support existing transit service will get, and how much funding will go into expanding transit and highways. A transportation project cannot be built if it is not included in the RTP, and it cannot be included in the RTP unless MTC identifies enough funds to build and operate it.
Past RTPs have included mostly projects that provide few or no benefits to low-income communities or communities of color and have failed to provide adequate funding to operate and maintain the local bus service on which low-income residents depend. MTC is already drafting the next RTP and will adopt the final version in 2017.
The Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS) (the other part of Plan Bay Area) requires both MTC and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) to coordinate their transportation and land use (e.g., housing and open space) planning to reduce vehicle miles traveled and thereby decrease greenhouse gas emissions. Together, the RTP and the SCS are known as Plan Bay Area.
What Are Our Goals?
A wide range of social justice groups in the 6 Wins for Social Equity Network are working together and raising our voices for fairness and equality throughout the Bay Area to ensure that the update to Plan Bay Area leads to big social equity wins:
- Frequent, reliable and affordable bus service: We are pushing for a fair share of funding for bus service in Plan Bay Area to ensure affordable fares, provide free youth bus passes, add new routes and increase frequency and service hours.
- Quality jobs in communities struggling with high unemployment and low wages: To receive funding, transportation projects should produce middle-wage construction, production, operations or maintenance jobs and career ladders for Bay Area residents.
- Affordable housing in areas including suburbs and near transit: To receive regional transportation funds, local jurisdictions should show that they are meeting regional affordable housing targets and have strong affordable housing policies.
- Investment without displacement: To receive regional transportation funds, cities and counties should have strong anti-displacement policies, such as rent control and just cause eviction.
- Healthy and safe communities: Transportation investments must not, as in the past, provide all the benefits to affluent communities while pollution and other burdens fall on low-income families.
- Greater community power for low-income communities of color in decision-making processes.