Housing Crisis – Taking a Regional Approach May Be the Solution

In Drafting a blueprint for a better Bay Area, San Francisco Business Times (Link), the authors call for a Grand Bargain on housing in the Bay Area.  The authors are Fred Blackwell, CEO, San Francisco Foundation; Leslye Corsiglia, Executive Director, SV@Home, an affordable housing advocacy group in Silicon Valley; and Michael Covarrubias, Chairman and CEO, TMG Partners, a development firm focused on urban infill projects in the Bay Area.  Together, they “are co-chairing a new initiative called CASA — The Committee to House the Bay Area. With support from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the nine-county Bay Area’s transportation planning, financing and coordinating agency, CASA is bringing together nearly 50 leaders from across the region to, in plain terms, figure this thing out.”

What is this “thing?”  It is “getting the Bay Area on the right track out of this housing crisis. This is because the Bay Area has not one but many crises – not nearly enough housing production, a ‘missing middle’ of market-rate affordability, gentrification and displacement disproportionately affecting low-income residents and communities of color and not enough affordable housing for our most vulnerable neighbors, among others. Rather than minor policy changes, or limited funding infusions, they are asking our CASA partners to propose bold, groundbreaking actions that will move the needle on these difficult, seemingly intractable problems.”

The Compact addresses the three primary concerns of CASA, known as the “3 Ps,” for how to increase the production of housing, particularly affordable housing, how to ensure the preservation of the existing affordable housing stock and how to ensure the protection of current residents against displacement pressures that arise from new construction.

The Compact has recommendations for increasing new construction and protecting existing housing stock, especially for renters.

The Compact calls for the establishment of a regional leadership entity, Regional Housing Enterprise, to  implement the CASA Compact, track and report progress, and provide incentives and technical assistance. The entity must be governed by an independent board with representation for key stakeholder groups that helped develop the Compact. The housing entity would not play a regulatory/enforcement role.

The CASA Compact will set a bold region-wide agenda for addressing protection of existing tenants, preservation of existing affordable units and production of both market-rate and subsidized units. To implement this agenda, a broad coalition of stakeholders, who have helped shape the CASA Compact, must stay engaged with state legislative advocacy, building support for raising new revenue and financing programs, tracking and monitoring progress, keeping the public engaged, and taking a regional approach to challenges such as homelessness. A regional approach can balance inequities and imbalances across multiple jurisdiction that have to contend with varying market strengths, fiscal challenges and staff expertise.

The Regional Housing Enterprise would have the authority to gather and disperse $1.5 billion per year, primarily for production.  It is proposed that 60% goes to housing production (new housing), 20% to acquire and preserve housing, 10% for tenant protection services, and 10% to local jurisdictions for lost revenue due to caps on impact fees. Of the money collected through a new proposed regional tax measure, 75% will be spent in the county of origin and 25% will go to regional revenue sharing.

This regional approach is good news for the North Bay which needs a regional strategic housing plan.  The workforce for the North Bay is shared by the three counties and the need for housing that workforce will best be met by addressing the housing needs regionally, rather than by any one city or county.  Let’s hope this new approach gains traction and helps ease the shortage of supply here in the near future.

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