Regional Agencies Commit to Critical Action Plan to Tackle Housing Affordability & Displacement Crisis in the Bay Area

Over the last three years, the 6 Wins Network has advocated for a regional plan — called Plan Bay Area — that includes meaningful strategies to tackle the housing affordability and displacement crisis.  On Wednesday, July 26th, 2017 the regional planning agencies– Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), approved a strong regional affordable housing and anti-displacement policy agenda as part of Plan Bay Area, as urged by advocates. Read Public Advocates’ press release about the vote here.

Early on, we won new performance goals for Plan Bay Area, including affordable housing and anti-displacement goals.  When MTC and ABAG, the regional planning agencies, modeled how Plan Bay Area performed against these key equity goals, they found that it “moved in the wrong direction.”  For example, under Plan Bay Area, an additional 250,000 low-income Bay Area residents will be at risk of displacement by 2040.

That was unacceptable, so 6 Wins, with the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California (NPH) and Greenbelt Alliance, advocated for an “Action Plan” that would include concrete strategies to specifically help the region meet these goals.  In November 2016, MTC and ABAG agreed to include an Action Plan.  After staff released a draft Action Plan in March that didn’t go far enough, we sent recommendations for making it more ambitious and more specific.

On direction from MTC and ABAG, staff worked with the 6 Wins Network and our allies to strengthen the Action Plan, and on July 10th, they released proposed revisions to the Action Plan that significantly reflected our recommendations. On July 26th, MTC and ABAG approved the final Plan Bay Area 2040, including the changes to the Action Plan.

The 6 Wins strongly supports the Action Plan, which includes the following actions:

  1. Regional affordable housing funds: Develop a plan for generating regional revenues for affordable housing production and preservation.
  2. Regional affordable housing programs: Build on and expand regional housing policy successes such as the Preservation Pilot and the Transit-Oriented Affordable Housing program.
  3. State affordable housing and anti-displacement legislation: Support state legislation and funding, including a permanent source of affordable housing funding, increasing community stabilization and lessening displacement risk, and incentivizing developers to create low-income housing.
  4. Affordable housing incentives in regional transportation funding: Expand housing conditions and incentives in both new and existing transportation funding sources, and report to the Commission on all discretionary funding sources where such conditions may be added.
  5. Public land for affordable housing: Develop a strategy for facilitating affordable housing development on public land near transit.
  6. Local anti-displacement policies: Provide technical assistance to local jurisdictions on community stabilization and anti-displacement policies, and create an online Policy Directory with examples of local ordinances that address community stabilization.

In addition, the Action Plan requires staff to report twice a year to MTC and ABAG on Action Plan progress and implementation, and it explicitly ties the actions to a new regional blue ribbon committee on housing affordability, called CASA.

Background

Decades of inequitable policy choices have systematically excluded low-income communities of color from opportunity by promoting segregation and disinvestment, while creating an environment marked by sprawl, heavy dependence on cars, and the creation of highways that pollute the low income neighborhoods they cross.

A California state law, SB 375, aims to decrease sprawl, driving and pollution by requiring regional agencies to coordinate planning decisions that would bring housing, jobs and transit closer together through a regional plan called Plan Bay Area. This plan provides a powerful opening for redrawing the map of opportunity and exclusion. We can use it to challenge regional and local public policies across the Bay Area that siphon resources away from disadvantaged communities and isolate those communities from opportunity.

Regional Planning Process

The Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) (part of Plan Bay Area) is adopted every four years by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the Bay Area’s transportation funding and planning agency. The RTP establishes priorities for spending almost $300 billion in public transportation funding over the next 25 years. Through the plan, MTC decides how much support existing transit service will get, and how much funding will go into expanding transit and highways. A transportation project cannot be built if it is not included in the RTP, and it cannot be included in the RTP unless MTC identifies enough funds to build and operate it.

Past RTPs have included mostly projects that provide few or no benefits to low-income communities or communities of color and have failed to provide adequate funding to operate and maintain the local bus service on which low-income residents depend. MTC is already drafting the next RTP and will adopt the final version in 2017.

The Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS) (the other part of Plan Bay Area) requires both MTC and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) to coordinate their transportation and land use (e.g., housing and open space) planning to reduce vehicle miles traveled and thereby decrease greenhouse gas emissions. Together, the RTP and the SCS are known as Plan Bay Area.

What Are Our Goals?

A wide range of social justice groups in the 6 Wins for Social Equity Network are working together and raising our voices for fairness and equality throughout the Bay Area to ensure that the update to Plan Bay Area leads to big social equity wins:

  • Frequent, reliable and affordable bus service: We are pushing for a fair share of funding for bus service in Plan Bay Area to ensure affordable fares, provide free youth bus passes, add new routes and increase frequency and service hours.
  • Quality jobs in communities struggling with high unemployment and low wages: To receive funding, transportation projects should produce middle-wage construction, production, operations or maintenance jobs and career ladders for Bay Area residents.
  • Affordable housing in areas including suburbs and near transit: To receive regional transportation funds, local jurisdictions should show that they are meeting regional affordable housing targets and have strong affordable housing policies.
  • Investment without displacement: To receive regional transportation funds, cities and counties should have strong anti-displacement policies, such as rent control and just cause eviction.
  • Healthy and safe communities: Transportation investments must not, as in the past, provide all the benefits to affluent communities while pollution and other burdens fall on low-income families.
  • Greater community power for low-income communities of color in decision-making processes.

What Are We Winning in the 2017 Plan Bay Area Update?

The 6 Wins Network has been busy building on our wins in 2013 and advocating for changes to Plan Bay Area on a number of different fronts.  Here’s what we’ve been up to, and what we’ve won:

  • Regional Advocacy Day: In October 2015, the 6 Wins held its third regional day of advocacy and education to ensure that regional transportation investments meet the needs of low-income communities and do not result in displacement.  About 40 people met with MTC commissioners and ABAG board members to push for equity-based performance targets and an OBAG program that rewards jurisdictions that are tackling displacement and building affordable housing.
  • Equity-Based Performance Targets: In response to advocacy by the 6 Wins and allies, MTC and ABAG adopted new equity-based performance targets to evaluate Plan Bay Area scenarios, including: Increasing the share of affordable housing in transit-rich and high-opportunity areas, not increasing displacement of low- and moderate-income renter households in transit-rich and high-opportunity areas, and increasing the number of jobs in middle-wage. industries
  • Tying Transportation Funds to Anti-Displacement and Affordable Housing: At a July 27, 2016, meeting, MTC voted unanimously to tie One Bay Area Grant (OBAG) funding to local anti-displacement policies and affordable housing production. Specifically, MTC approved the following: awarding $30 million to the 10 cities that produce the most affordable homes; setting aside $10 million for a new Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing (NOAH) fund to acquire housing occupied by low-income residents and preserve it as affordable; allocating $1.5 million to update Community-Based Transportation Plans (CBTPs) in low-income communities facing displacement; and requiring points in the $350 million county OBAG program’s competitive scoring criteria for cities with anti-displacement policies. This action was in response to persistent proposals by the 6 Wins, an online petition signed by nearly 500 Bay Area residents from 54 cities, and testimony and direct action by more than 25 members and allies of the 6 Wins during the meeting. Resident leaders held signs that read, “I am the face of displacement,” testifying powerfully (at 39:35 in the video) about their personal struggles with housing affordability and displacement and the solutions they are fighting for in their own communities.
  • Equity, Environment and Jobs (EEJ) Scenario 2.0: The 6 Wins continues to push for MTC and ABAG to include an EEJ scenario among those they study and to incorporate key elements of EEJ scenario in the “preferred alternative.”  In 2013, the agencies found that the EEJ scenario was “environmentally superior” to their own.  (See some key differences between EEJ and the scenarios here.)
  • Funding Community-Identified Priorities: The 6 Wins submitted a first-ever proposal by a non-transit agency in response to MTC’s “call for projects” for Plan Bay Area that would achieve a meaningful community-driven process for identifying priority projects and programs and a meaningful amount of funding to invest in these projects and programs.
  • Regional Housing and Displacement Forum: The 6 Wins persuaded MTC and ABAG to hold a regional forum on housing and displacement that included resident leaders of 6 Wins members (like Melissa Jones of North Bay Organizing Project, Reyna Gonzalez of Faith in Action, and Theola Polk of East Bay Housing Organizations) as opening speakers (watch their remarks, starting at 18:25), a creative action illustrating “the face of displacement,” a 6 Wins position paper on displacement, and discussions that lifted up 6 Wins priorities and solutions.
  • (Not) Making the Grade: The 6 Wins released its latest Plan Bay Area Interim Report Card, giving MTC and ABAG a “D” on their progress to ensure that Plan Bay Area advances community power, investment without displacement, affordable housing, transportation justice, quality jobs, and safe and healthy communities, and providing recommendations for how to improve their grade.

What Did We Win in 2013?

The 6 Wins Network is determined to create one Bay Area for all. In 2013, we did it by:

  • Launching the first-ever community-built, equity-driven, alternative regional plan. Developed by the 6 Wins in 2011, the Equity, Environment and Jobs (EEJ) Scenario focuses on creating a more healthy, prosperous and sustainable future for Bay Area residents of all races and incomes, including struggling families.
  • Showing that equity is better for everyone. In July 2012, the 6 Wins succeeded in pushing MTC and ABAG to study the benefits of the EEJ scenario in their Environmental Impact Report (EIR) of the Plan. When the EIR was released in April 2013, it concluded that the EEJ out-performed the Draft Plan and three other alternatives. In fact, MTC and ABAG called it the “environmentally superior alternative.” That’s because the numbers show that the EEJ results in fewer greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants; a broader distribution of affordable housing; $8 billion more to increase transit service levels; more opportunities for walking and biking; fewer injuries and fatalities from traffic accidents; the fewest renters priced out of their neighborhoods; and the lowest combined housing and transportation costs for low-income households.
  • Linking grassroots groups, academics, policy and legal advocates. We know that we’re stronger when we bring each of our unique skills to the table and work collectively across issue areas. The 6 Wins has also built bridges to groups that focus on environment, public health, good government and business. In fact, by May, 2013, more than 40 groups, including the American Lung Association, the League of Women Voters of the Bay Area, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, had joined the 6 Wins Network in calling on MTC and ABAG to incorporate key elements of the EEJ in the final plan.
  • Providing constructive input on the process and the Draft Plan. From the beginning of the process, the 6 Wins has been constructive in offering solutions to MTC and ABAG. From our comment letter on MTC’s Public Participation Plan, to our comments on the Draft Plan, and an accompanying technical analysis by UC Davis professors, we have provided rigorous analysis and concrete suggestions for improving both the plan and the process.
  • Ensuring community members are at the decision-making table. We believe in the basic premise that the most impacted communities should play an influential role in the decision-making process. The 6 Wins Network includes powerful voices from community members like Pamela Tapia and Woody Little, who bring their stories directly to the public meetings where elected officials are casting critical votes.
  • Educating elected officials. Members and allies of the 6 Wins meet with regional policymakers to explain what’s at stake for those whose voices are typically drowned out — the voices of low-income people and people of color — and offer policy solutions.
  • Creating communication materials that change hearts and minds. The 6 Wins “Report Card, which graded MTC and ABAG’s efforts on One Bay Area, is one example of the work we do to increase awareness of the regional planning process and galvanize both the public and the press.

While MTC and ABAG did not adopt the EEJ scenario or go nearly far enough in addressing local transit, affordable housing, and displacement issues in the Bay Area, amendments incorporated in July 2013 made decisive improvements to the Draft Plan on many of the issues low-income communities and communities of color had been fighting for throughout the Plan Bay Area process. In particular, the commissioners adopted three amendments that will help protect families in these communities from displacement, improve their access to local transit service, and give them a voice in how billions of dollars in Cap and Trade revenues will benefit them:

  • The One Bay Area Grant program, or OBAG, was a central part of the Equity, Environment and Jobs (EEJ scenario) won earlier in the process. It conditions grants to local cities on their adoption of a state-certified affordable housing plan. Successful amendments introduced by Sup. Eric Mar and Councilmember Libby Schaaf moved the program closer to the 6 Wins goal of tying regional grants to local anti-displacement measures and affordable housing production.
  • Sup. John Gioia, a strong voice for communities impacted by refinery emissions in and around Richmond and a new appointee to the California Air Resources Board, successfully carried a motion that commits the region to an inclusive public process to set priorities for $3.1 billion in Cap and Trade revenue, with an explicit focus on benefits to disadvantaged communities (as required by SB 535). This opens up the opportunity not only for the 6 Wins Network to engage in how that money could be spent in the Bay Area, but also to contribute strongly to shaping the statewide priorities for implementing SB 535.
  • Sup. David Campos, a champion in San Francisco, carried an amendment that, for the very first time, commits MTC to adopt a “comprehensive strategy” with a focus on local transit operating support. An example of such a “comprehensive strategy” is the Regional Transit Operating Program we advocated for. This provides us and our partners with an important opening to pursue that in the coming year or two.

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