Berkeley city Housing Action Plan not yet useful

Amid an increasingly severe housing crisis in Berkeley, City Council met last week to put together a Housing Action Plan that some found to be unsatisfactory in its vagueness. During the meeting, several council members brought up the luxury housing developments that have recently cropped up around Berkeley. These new housing developments were criticized as unaffordable to lower income or even median-income residents, and council members asserted that the solution to the housing crisis lies in increasing affordable housing options.

But building exclusively affordable units won’t solve the city’s housing crisis, either. Instead, the city would do well to take into consideration the economic growth of the cities across the Bay and what that means for Berkeley’s population growth when drawing up its action plan.

Not only does Berkeley need affordable housing for the average resident, it also needs housing for the professionals transplanting themselves away from the ever-rising rents of San Francisco and Silicon Valley. These transplants can more easily afford the luxury housing units discussed at the City Council meeting and, by living there, will be less likely to displace lower income residents or students.

Luxury housing units that have a starting rent of $3,500 certainly aren’t going to solve all of Berkeley’s problems with housing displacement, but they can certainly be a part of the solution. In addition to these units, however, the city needs to create a more comprehensive plan to accommodate people of all income levels.

The plan proposes that the city consider waiving inspection fees and other city fees associated with rental units designated for low-income Section 8 tenants in order to incentivize landlords to offer Section 8 housing.

There are not specific plans to create a multitude of new affordable units for this subset of the population, however. No new projects seem to be in the pipeline.

When executing the city’s housing plan, the city also must consider the Berkeley campus and the new student residents it brings in. Housing 37,000 students poses a unique problem not faced by other Bay Area cities and requires cooperation between campus and city officials.

If the city increased housing, some residential property values would certainly take a small hit. It’s understandable that homeowners may be concerned over the long-term value of their home but they must consider the ramifications for other cramped residents should they decide to oppose council members who support more developments when at the voting station.

Discussing a Housing Action Plan is certainly a step in the right direction, however, imprecise wording such as the kind criticized at the City Hall meeting only serves to muddy the waters and delay action. If the City Council members want to draw up a plan for effective change, the next step is specificity.

Editorials represent the collective opinion of the Senior Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.

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