Housing

Regional agencies, local governments take new steps to solve Bay Area housing problems

Housing

The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), in partnership with cities and counties, are stepping up collaborative efforts to meet the Bay Area’s chronic housing affordability challenges by preserving existing housing units, preventing the displacement of current residents and promoting the construction of new units.

ABAG’s Executive Board last week approved an expanded regional housing portfolio as well as the formation of a new Housing Committee to supplement ABAG’s housing planning work and to strengthen its leadership role on Bay Area housing issues. The new Housing Committee also will advise the Executive Board on a variety of housing programs and policies, including those to reduce homelessness.

The newly formed Bay Area Housing Finance Authority (BAHFA) today convened for the first time, following MTC’s endorsement of the expanded regional housing portfolio. The expansion of ABAG’s and MTC’s work is designed to develop a comprehensive regional strategy for helping local governments tackle the housing crisis on a larger scale by transcending city and county boundaries. The Bay Area’s nine counties and 101 cities and towns currently address most housing issues individually, and often with limited staff and financial resources. These challenges will become steeper in the months ahead as the economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic shrinks local governments’ budgets.

“The Bay Area housing crisis is not only incredibly complex, it has roots that go back for generations,” said Berkeley mayor and ABAG Executive Board president Jesse Arreguin. “We know there is no silver bullet that will solve all the region’s housing problems at once, and that we have to work on all three of the P’s: preservation, protection and production. The new ABAG Housing Committee will help guide a multi-faceted approach that draws on the expertise of our cities and counties as well as on the capacities of ABAG, MTC and BAHFA to explore near-term and long-term activities that can steer us to a future where every Bay Area resident has a stable and affordable home.”

Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, who also serves as a member of the ABAG Executive Board and as Chair of both MTC and BAHFA, acknowledges that meeting the region’s interrelated housing challenges will require the investment of dollars that are not currently available. “BAHFA is a joint initiative of MTC and ABAG; and both boards must approve any decision to put a regional housing finance measure on the ballot. Due to the COVID-19 emergency and the resulting economic downturn, MTC and ABAG both opted not to put a measure on the November ballot. But when the pandemic finally is behind us, the need for a big investment in affordable housing will remain.”

BAHFA, established last year by Assembly Bill 1487, is the first regional housing finance authority in California. Assembly member David Chiu of San Francisco, who authored the bill, explained that, “BAHFA is more than just a vehicle for voters to support affordable housing. It’s also a vehicle for collectively addressing our housing crisis, embracing bold ideas, testing innovative approaches, strengthening the partnership between ABAG and MTC through shared decision-making, and fostering new funding partnerships with foundations and the private sector.”

ABAG is the council of governments and the regional planning agency for the 101 cities and towns, and nine counties of the Bay Area. MTC is the transportation planning, financing and coordinating agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.

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