Marin Voice: Bill would empower Bay Area to take action against housing crisis
Author: Mary Murtagh
Date: September 9th, 2019
Publication: Marin Independent Journal
Recently, a Marin Voice column in the Independent Journal opposed state legislation such as Assembly Bill 1487, the Housing Alliance for the Bay Area Act. It referred to Wall Street and local government control of housing development.
Unfortunately much of our lack of housing supply, of which growing homelessness is a symptom, is a result of lack of action — indeed resistance to action — by local governments across California. We need to build 3.5 million new housing units in California, of which 1.4 million new units need to be affordable housing (defined as affordable to households at 60% of the Area Median Income and below).
Marin County is part of the giant regional Bay Area economy, and it’s a regional housing market. All local governments, large and small, need to be part of the regional approach to solving this crisis, and Marin should be at the table.
Each day thousands of cars flow from homes in Marin into San Francisco and the East Bay, and thousands of cars drive from distant homes into jobs in Marin County. Greenhouse gases, climate change, labor shortages and excessive traffic are results of decades of resistance to new housing development throughout the region.
The Bay Area desperately needs housing, including affordable housing. There are two major barriers to accomplishing this challenge — local resistance (NIMBYism) and lack of financing. Regarding local resistance, the state of California under Gov. Gavin Newsom has begun to level the playing field by requiring that all local governments adopt and implement plans to develop housing at all affordability levels.
However, building affordable housing is expensive and local governments need funds and technical assistance to help get it done. Smaller cities and underfunded counties have been left to figure out an increasing housing divide without adequate funding or staff. But we have an opportunity.
AB 1487 is that opportunity. It is embracing reality — we are in a regional housing market. We cannot ask 101 jurisdictions to each act alone in solving a current crisis that will impact future generations in the Bay Area.
AB 1487 is an attempt to empower our region, specifically, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments, to act. The legislation calls for the creation of a new authority, operated and governed jointly by MTC and ABAG, as a first step to building the new regional housing infrastructure needed to solve the crisis.
The new entity would act to support and facilitate production of housing throughout the region by developing a regional consensus on the best way to finance affordable housing, and placing one or more measures on the ballot to generate the needed funds. AB 1487 would also empower MTC/ABAG to support regional strategies to create more affordable homes and protect long-term residents by providing financing to advance production, preservation, and protection strategies; incentivizing outcomes by providing resources and tools; and deploying technical assistance to bolster local capacity and generate data to inform local housing policies and programs.
Here in Marin, we need to build more than 9,000 affordable rental homes to meet the needs of our residents. In the last roughly 10 years we have lost about 60% of our annual financial resources for affordable housing from the demise of redevelopment funding and cutbacks in federal resources.
Marin and the Bay Area need the resources and tools that the new regional housing authority would provide. Renters in Marin County need to earn $61.63 per hour — more than five times the state’s minimum wage — to afford the median asking rent of $3,205. Because of skyrocketing rents, homelessness among seniors in Marin County is predicted to triple in the next 10 years.
We hope that local leaders and citizens of Marin County will support AB 1487, which has passed the California State Assembly and is now pending in the Senate. The Legislature will wrap up its work by Sept. 15, so supporters should contact Senator Mike McGuire at firstname.lastname@example.org and urge him to vote yes on AB 1487.
Mary Murtagh is executive chair of the board for Marin EAH Housing
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