March 2, 2016
By David Zisser
Terms like “regional equity” and “power building” took life at a Bay Area forum on displacement last week. Advocates for proactive regional strategies to prevent displacement and increase affordable housing turned out in force to a February 20, 2016, public forum that drew some 400 people in Oakland. “Calling the Bay Area Home – Tackling the Affordable Housing and Displacement Challenge” was attended by scores of 6 Wins for Social Equity Network members, including more than 40 resident leaders from five grassroots organizations. The event resulted from consistent pressure from the 6 Wins Network to ensure that Plan Bay Area and the One Bay Area Grant program can help stop and reverse displacement in the Bay Area.
The Big Takeaways
Two regional agencies – the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) – planned the forum to discuss the root causes of displacement, and the solutions. But the 6 Wins Network, which Public Advocates and Urban Habitat coordinate, pushed MTC and ABAG to create an event that meaningfully included community voices. Grassroots partners Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment(ACCE), Causa Justa :: Just Cause, East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO),Faith in Action, and North Bay Organizing Project (NBOP) led this push, resulting in a forum that was drastically different from what was originally planned – one that included residents in all aspects and lifted up key 6 Wins priorities.
- Low-Income People of Color are Building Regional Power.The dozens of residents who attended made it clear that they understand MTC and ABAG’s significant role in ensuring equitable transportation investments and in preventing displacement, and that they are prepared to hold these agencies accountable. During opening remarks, Melissa Jones (NBOP), Reyna Gonzalez (Faith in Action) and Theola Polk (EBHO) spoke powerfully about their own experiences and about solutions that work. Theola led a creative, powerful action with resident leaders (“the face of displacement”) in the audience, and Melissa prominently displayed her anti-displacement art, as seen alongside the title of this blog. (Check out photos here.) Residents also facilitated and participated in the six sub-regional break-out groups and added their important perspectives to the discussions.
- Tenant Protections are Key, and the Regional Agencies Must Step Up To Address the Displacement Crisis.As a result of this strong engagement by people at the forefront of the displacement crisis, the need for urgent local and regional action to protect tenants emerged from each of the sub-regional discussion groups. Two themes stood out in particular: (a) the need for local tenant protections like rent stabilization and just cause eviction and (b) the importance of tying regional funding like the One Bay Area Grant to the adoption of local tenant protections and other anti-displacement policies. Jennifer Martinez (Faith in Action) also highlighted these themes during the opening panel.
While the forum raised important questions and ideas, the real policy decisions are coming up and are summarized in the 6 Wins’ position paper distributed at the forum.
- OBAG and anti-displacement policies:In April, the MTC Commission will begin to consider recommendations from staff about how to tie OBAG funding to local anti-displacement and affordable housing policies. In May, the Commission will take a final vote. The 6 Wins shared detailed recommendations with MTC in September. (UC Berkeley researchers recently added a new online tool that maps the jurisdictions that have various anti-displacement policies.)
- Funding community-identified priorities:6 Wins members are following up on our proposal in response to MTC’s “Call for Projects” for Plan Bay Area, meeting with MTC officials to discuss how they can potentially build on the Lifeline and Community-Based Transportation Planning programs to achieve a meaningful community-driven process for identifying priority projects and programs and a meaningful amount of funding to invest in those projects and programs.
- EEJ:Finally, MTC and ABAG are currently developing Plan Bay Area scenarios, and the 6 Wins is actively pushing them to include a stand-alone Equity, Environment and Jobs (EEJ) Scenario and to incorporate EEJ strategies that prevent displacement and prioritize investments that benefit low-income communities of color into the existing scenarios.
As the 6 Wins continues to fight for a strong OBAG program, investments in community-identified priorities, and an EEJ scenario, we will remind MTC and ABAG officials about the power that residents demonstrated at the forum and the solutions that they identified. You can help by telling your locally elected officials who sit on the MTC Commission that you support the 6 Wins Network’s recommendations.