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Bay Housing Roundup: Organize for Change

In the last three weeks I’ve made my way around the bay attending discussions on the housing crisis here. It’s a topic we keep raising on BayMozaic, a topic that won’t disappear until solutions take root. Here’s a roundup based on my latest road trip of citizen advocate, expert and government views from Richmond, Concord/Walnut Creek and San Francisco. (Also making headlines in the last few weeks, Oakland made affordable housing part of its deal to bring Uber to town and it also passed its Housing Equity Roadmap.)

Concord/Walnut Creek: Push the Municipalities
“Land use is a local decision,” said Mariko Yamada, former California Assemblywoman at a recent meeting of the Diablo Valley Democratic Club. The housing crisis, in large part, gets solved at home by showing up and voicing opinions at local councils. It’s about organizing. Yamada was filling in for a canceled speaker. As a past member of the Assembly’s Housing and Community Development Committee and Chair of the Assembly Aging and Long Term Care Committee, she made a formative stand-in. With maps and stories, she put the current housing crunch in the context of decision-making. Organized citizens making their voices heard stand the best chance of generating political will in local leaders. She indicated that the federal government has little leverage in solving the problems, and whatever contribution they can make (through appropriations) has been slashed in annual budget fights. At the state level, Governor Jerry Brown’s dissolution of redevelopment agencies in 2011 led to another “downward spiral,” as Yamada put it.

Richmond: Housing Policy, Prayer and Organizing Power
Not helping any, Governor Brown vetoed AB 35. In doing so, he blocked passage of a bipartisan bill that would increase low income housing tax credits that incentivize development and maintenance of low-income housing. At last month’s East Bay Housing Alliance (EBHO) interfaith convening in Richmond, the conversation centered on policy and prayer. Everyone had the opportunity to sign letters in favor of the (yet to be doomed) AB 35 and another bill that was later signed into law. Speakers denounced “accumulation by dispossession,” unimpeded rent increases and cities’ moves that favor market rate and high-end housing. On the social cost of gentrification : “Community is not commodification,” said another, “it’s about history, it’s about social ties.” The event underscored the moral imperative of fighting for affordable housing and the breadth of the faith coalition behind it.  See results of the 2015 legislative cycle related to affordable housing here.

San Francisco: Proposition A and More Affordable Housing
Tomorrow (Nov. 3), San Franciscans go to the ballot to decide on one solution to housing needs there – Proposition A. At a mid-October convening at SPUR, speakers shared details about the measure’s potential boost to affordable housing. Part of the bond funds would help repair and reconstruct public housing in the city’s Potrero and Sunnydale neighborhoods. (See more details in the San Francisco Public Press Nonpartisan Guide). They described the community input process that mined for concerns about safety, transit, recreation and health. Beyond adding needed housing stock and repairing degraded homes, it would help reverse the concentration of poverty in the city. In a series of horrific statistics, speakers, including District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen, revealed the deep socio-economic opportunity division between residents in these areas and the rest of the city, what they termed Communities of Isolation. The bond measure requires a two-thirds super majority to pass. For more on the bond measure see San Francisco Public Press.

Photos: Torbakhopper on Flickr

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