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Housing and Sustainable Development


Like much of the Bay Area, housing in the North Bay is very expensive and demand far exceeds the supply.  The North Bay severely lacks of all levels of workforce housing. Apartment rents have jumped nearly 30 percent in three years, and the vacancy rate is less than 3 percent — essentially full occupancy.  Sonoma County’s local governments issued just 251 building permits for single-family homes last year, the lowest total in at least 45 years.  In Marin County, purchasing a median-priced home requires an annual income of $193,000. Employers are faced with the need to provide higher wages for their workers, putting a strain on their bottom line, and it becomes increasingly difficult to lure top talent to a region where they cannot afford to buy a home. The cure to Bay Area’s affordability ailment is to significantly increase the supply of housing units throughout the region, and to do so, we must work to mitigate these regulatory barriers to development of all kinds.


The lack of political will, at all levels of government, to solve the housing shortage is causing huge affordability gaps and the displacement of thousands of low income residents in our region. We cannot achieve any of the objectives of our long range regional development and carbon reduction plans if we continue to force more of the Bay Area’s residents to the fringes of the region, and beyond, and give them no options other than to drive to work.  Our challenge if we are to address this crisis is to:

  • Immediately remove institutional barriers to smart growth and development
  • Create a sustainable permanent funding mechanism to finance housing development
  • Ensure that good policy trumps bad politics. We must support good development projects and better make our case that we all benefit from smart growth


We must mitigate California and the Bay Area’s most egregious impediments to infill, transit-oriented, and mixed-use development in order to accommodate Plan Bay Area’s call for denser growth and a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.  NBLC is working with regional agencies and local jurisdictions to identify and alleviate barriers to development. We are engaging employers, large and small, in the housing conversation to make the North Bay a place where the best and the brightest people in the world can afford to live and work. We support:

  • AB 35, which will increase California’s investment in low-income housing by $300 million and leverage an additional $600 million in federal housing resources that would otherwise go unclaimed by our state
  • AB 1335, the Building Homes and Jobs Act, which creates an ongoing funding source that helps the state live within its means; it increases California’s supply of affordable homes, creates jobs, and spurs economic growth without incurring additional debt;  the act imposes a $75 fee on documents related to real-estate transactions, excluding home/commercial property sales
  • Modernization of CEQA, with infill development and Plan Bay Area implementation in mind
  • Creation of a State Appeals Board that can serve as an impartial body to resolve conflicts arising from approvals of new affordable housing. In doing so, it will carefully balance the need for such housing and legitimate local concerns-planning, environmental, open space, design, health, safety, and other local concerns.


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