Report proposes ‘community-based’ solutions to Bay Area housing crisis

Ariel Lung/Staff

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The East Bay Community Law Center, or EBCLC, and Bay Area-based nonprofit Urban Habitat co-published a report Nov. 20 regarding possible solutions to the Bay Area’s housing crisis.

The report detailed some “community-based alternatives,” such as having cities sanction and support “informal settlements” and increasing the number of community land trusts.

“The current crisis demands that we question old assumptions, discuss alternative visions and policies, and move boldly in a different direction,” the report said. “This report is our attempt to contribute to these efforts.”

Berkeley Housing Advisory Commission chair Igor Tregub noted in an email that while the commission hasn’t discussed the report itself yet, considering it was released recently, the solutions posed in the report have been “the subject of a great deal of discussion.” He also said in the email that he plans to put it on the commission’s agenda.

According to Housing Advisory Commissioner Matthew Lewis, the city supports existing land trusts. He added that the commission has outlined plans to expand on cooperative living situations.

Tregub said in the email that the report is a “reassuring” indication that Berkeley is developing programs that are “on the right track.”

“While I have not found any novel information in the report about the housing affordability and displacement crisis as it affects Berkeley, the report provides an excellent synthesis of the work conducted by housing experts and in various stages of discussion by policymakers,” Tregub said in the email.

Lewis identified group equity cooperatives, land trusts and mutual housing associations as “the most effective models.” He added that he supports the report’s recommendations, though he has reservations about a permanent real estate cooperative model because its lack of tax exemptions adds another expense to the model.

Because the report is recent, Urban Habitat and EBCLC have not received much feedback yet, according to Urban Habitat’s Program Director of Land Use and Housing Tony Samara. He said in an email that they have received positive feedback from “allies in the housing justice movement” and plan to further publicize the report in 2019.

In an email, Samara said the two organizations currently have no plans to bring this report to the attention of for-profit land developers nor to advocate for the report’s plans in specific areas, but will try to support “community partners” as they work toward reaching their housing goals at a local level.

Samara added that Berkeley could be the leader on many of the policies outlined in the report.

“We need to think big, meaning in the tens of thousands of units in the next 5-10 years,” Samara said in the email. “There is lots of money and therefore power behind maintaining the system that generates huge profits for some but leaves many Bay Area residents struggling for housing security and a decent life for themselves and their families.”

Contact Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SakuCannestra.