Metropolitan Transportation Commission identifies public land for affordable housing development

Ariel Lung/Senior Staff

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The Metropolitan Transportation Commission, or MTC, released an action plan for its Public Lands Study earlier this month in which it identified nearly 700 acres of public land near transit services in the Bay Area that could potentially be used for lower- and moderate-income resident housing.

The study evaluated nine Bay Area counties and found that Alameda County alone had 153 parcels — about 248 acres — of public land estimated to have the capacity for about 12,400 housing units. In total, all of the public land identified in the study was estimated to have the capacity for about 35,000 housing units.

As a way to help solve the problem of unwaveringly high housing costs in the Bay Area, MTC initially launched the study in 2016 to assess land owned by public agencies in Priority Development Areas — areas that local, city or county governments have identified and approved for future growth. These areas are located within a half-mile of rail stations or along select bus corridors, according to the study.

The study, which included an action plan providing a set of recommendations for addressing housing challenges, focused on potential land for housing development near BART, the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit, Caltrain and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority.

MTC assistant planning director Therese Trivedi said one goal of the study was to allow transit operators to determine whether there are “opportunities to advance” on the identified sites.

“The purpose of the study was to identify parcels (of land),” Trivedi said. “There is a lot of interest on where they are. The study looks at actions.”

The study includes a corollary database that, according to the MTC website, serves as a “useful tool for jurisdictions, agencies, developers, and community members interested in opportunities for housing development.”

Major owners of viable publicly owned land identified in Berkeley were BART, the UC Board of Regents, Berkeley Unified School District and the city of Berkeley. The database also included scores that would determine whether a site is expected to be competitive for affordable housing funding programs.

The MTC action plan states that housing development in the Bay Area is very expensive, and housing priced for moderate- and lower-income households typically require a significant financial subsidy.

“Housing that is affordable to the majority of households is not available in adequate amounts, and will not be without changing the status quo,” the MTC action plan states.

Contact Sarah Chung at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @schungdc.