HUD Demands Civil Rights Analysis of Bay Area Housing Allocation
By: Wynn Hausser
Project: 6 Big Wins for Social Equity Network
Date: April 18, 2013
Advocates Call on Planning Agencies to Consider Alternatives
SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a stern rebuke to the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), saying ABAG’s draft allocation of the Bay Area’s regional housing need may violate federal civil rights laws.
ABAG’s draft 8-year Regional Housing Needs Allocation distributes a portion of the region’s projected need for new housing to each city and county in the Bay Area. In contrast to previous cycles, ABAG’s current draft methodology makes local interest in housing development the primary factor in allocating the regional need, resulting in over-concentration of growth in lower-income neighborhoods. That over-concentration of growth also characterizes the draft “Plan Bay Area,” which ABAG and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) have recently issued for public comment. That plan proposes to assign 95 percent of housing growth to just 15 of the region’s 109 cities and counties over the next 28 years.
In its letter, HUD expresses serious concerns about the fact that ABAG’s housing plan “is largely based upon its PDA (Priority Development Area) program which allocates the majority of housing development in areas that local jurisdictions have voluntarily committed for future housing, transit, and job growth.” While concentrating housing growth in the cities that have volunteered for it, ABAG’s allocation limits housing growth in other cities with “neighborhoods comparably suited for the same type of growth.” HUD’s letter expresses concern that this could "limit housing options for low-income families and negatively impact minorities," in violation of the Fair Housing Act, and other federal civil rights laws.
"HUD asked ABAG to analyze the civil rights implications of the draft housing allocation last September," says Sam Tepperman-Gelfant, senior staff attorney with the civil rights law firm Public Advocates Inc. "That analysis needs to happen right away, before the region adopts a discriminatory housing plan."
The Public Interest Law Project, California Rural Legal Assistance and other civil rights advocates joined Public Advocates in first raising these issues with ABAG in October 2011. In a letter released yesterday, the group asked ABAG and MTC board members to "direct staff to immediately conduct the analysis that HUD requests." They also call for a similar analysis of the “Equity, Environment and Jobs,” or EEJ, scenario, an alternative plan developed by a broad coalition of community groups and analyzed in the draft Environmental Impact Report for Plan Bay Area.
"The EEJ alternative proposes to create affordable housing near transit and jobs throughout the region, not just in a few volunteer cities," Richard Marcantonio, managing attorney with Public Advocates, said. "ABAG and MTC’s own environmental analysis concludes that the EEJ alternative is not just more equitable, it’s also environmentally superior."
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