Research highlights importance of Bay Area affordable housing

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A research brief released Monday by UC Berkeley’s Urban Displacement Project highlighted the need for the development of market-rate and subsidized housing in order to reduce displacement pressures and to alleviate the housing crisis in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The research focused on the relationship between development, affordability and displacement, and expanded on information gathered from a previous report released by the California Legislative Analyst’s Office in February. While the previous research suggested that the development of market-rate housing units is the most effective method of preventing displacement, the new research accounted for the exclusion of subsidized housing from the LAO report.

Miriam Zuk, project director and senior researcher at the Center for Community Innovation, said that their research addresses the debate between groups that favor market-rate construction and those that favor subsidized housing.

“There is a debate about whether to invest in market-rate or subsidized housing, and this research shows that both are important,” Zuk said.

According to Zuk, Berkeley has one of the strongest rent controls within the Bay Area but is still experiencing gentrification and becoming a less affordable location to live.

Professor of city and regional planning Jennifer Wolch, who did not participate in the study, emphasized the importance of affordable housing in the Bay Area and the need to delay the process of gentrification.

“City planners are fairly aware and concerned about the issue of gentrification,” Wolch said. “They have to be mindful of the dynamics of cities.”

Displacement could also impact the schooling system because displaced students may have to transfer out of districts or commute farther distances to get to school, according to Deborah McKoy, campus lecturer in city and regional planning. She added that there is a need for affordable housing policies to respond to demographic and economic changes in the Bay Area.

Among members of City Council, there is a lack of support for subsidized housing, said Rent Stabilization Board Commissioner Alejandro Soto-Vigil. He added that the new research, which shows that subsidized housing has a stronger impact on displacement than market-rate units do, challenges the notion that market-rate construction could be an effective way of reducing displacement.

Soto-Vigil said that Berkeley represents a positive example in terms of rent control and stabilization, but there still does not exist adequate subsidized housing. He added that there was a need for the city to expand housing for families and for the homeless and disabled.

The results of the research have been regarded as powerful in bringing attention to the problem of housing affordability.

“This research is unbiased literature that supports the council utilizing more of its surplus funds to allocate towards the development of new affordable housing,” Soto-Vigil said.

Contact Shanzeh Khurram at [email protected].