By David Zisser
If it wasn’t clear before, members and allies of the 6 Wins Network, a regional social justice coalition, recently reminded some of the Bay Area’s top decision-makers just what we’re made of. On July 27th, we demonstrated to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the regional agency charged with investing billions of dollars in transportation funds, that it must play its part to address the housing and displacement crisis facing the Bay Area’s low-income residents. And in response, MTC took an important step in the right direction, creating an incentive for cities to adopt anti-displacement policies.
This important step by MTC comes in response to strong and persistent advocacy by the 6 Wins Network, our allies, and community leaders. A few examples of how we’ve shown up when it really mattered:
- Since 2011, the 6 Wins Network, which includes more than 20 organizations throughout the Bay Area, has proposed a powerful way for MTC to help address the crisis: use an innovative pot of transportation funds called the One Bay Area Grant (OBAG) program – more than $350 million – to reward cities that are tackling displacement.
- In October of last year, about 40 members and allies of the 6 Wins Network participated in a Regional Advocacy Day, meeting with MTC commissioners to urge them to reward OBAG funds to cities that are tackling displacement and building affordable housing.
- In February of this year, about 400 Bay Area residents, including more than 70 members and allies of the 6 Wins Network participated in a regional forum on housing and displacement. Our message: there is an urgent need to create more affordable housing, and MTC should encourage cities to adopt tenant protections to stave off the displacement crisis.
- Last week, nearly 500 Bay Area residents from 54 cities signed an online petition telling MTC to help end mass displacement of low-income residents, flooding the commissioners with emails.
In 2013, in response to 6 Wins advocacy, MTC promised to enact safeguards so that the housing and jobs growth that Plan Bay Area focuses in low-income communities of color served by transit would not exacerbate the housing crisis. Plan Bay Area is the regional transportation and housing plan that directs $300 billion in transportation investments over 25 years. Specifically, MTC committed to strengthening the ties between OBAG and local affordable housing production and anti-displacement policies.
For more than two years, MTC did nothing to fulfill that promise.
But then, at the MTC meeting on July 27th, more than 25 members and allies of the 6 Wins Network, including resident leaders with Causa Justa :: Just Cause, North Bay Organizing Project, and East Bay Housing Organizations, turned out to MTC’s meeting, holding signs that read, “I am the face of displacement,” testifying powerfully (at 39:35 in the video) about their personal struggles with housing affordability and displacement and the solutions they are fighting for in their own communities. They were eloquent in their demand to MTC to “do the right thing” (at 2:30:20).
In response to the community’s call for urgent action, the commissioners unanimously approved a proposal submitted by Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf to make cities with anti-displacement policies more competitive for OBAG funds. Specifically, counties must give these cities points in the scoring criteria used to evaluate applications for funding.
While MTC could have gone farther with OBAG, the 6 Wins’ advocacy has resulted in this and other important victories that we must ensure are effectively implemented over the coming months, and that we can build on next time. Overall, here’s what we won in OBAG in July:
- $30 million to the 10 cities that produce the most affordable homes.
- $10 million for a new Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing (NOAH) fund to acquire housing occupied by low-income residents and preserve it as affordable.
- $1.5 million to update Community-Based Transportation Plans (CBTPs) in low-income communities facing displacement.
- Points in the $350 million county OBAG program’s competitive scoring criteria for cities with anti-displacement policies.
And most importantly: a powerful demonstration by community members that we can and must hold MTC accountable for taking meaningful steps to end displacement in the Bay Area.