Bill aimed at tackling Bay Area housing crisis passes CA State Legislature

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The California State Legislature recently passed AB 1487, which could change the way local governments in the Bay Area finance affordable housing.

AB 1487, authored by Assemblymember David Chiu, D-San Francisco, and co-sponsored by the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California, or NPH, and Enterprise Community Partners, authorizes the creation of the Bay Area Housing Finance Authority, which will raise and distribute funds for affordable housing and tenant protection.

The bill represents the first formalized regional approach to tackling the Bay Area housing crisis at a regional level, according to Jen Kwart, spokesperson for Chiu’s office. Previous funding approaches for housing generally worked on a county basis, but the new Bay Area Housing Finance Authority will develop housing programs and distribute funding throughout the region.

“We’re excited about the possibility of taking a more coordinated regional approach to solving the Bay Area’s housing crisis,” Kwart said.

According to Kwart, AB 1487 allows the Association of Bay Area Governments, or ABAG, and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, or MTC, to put measures on a regional ballot that would raise funding for affordable housing.

The type of mechanism used to raise funding will be put forth to voters by ABAG and MTC, Kwart added. It may also include a parcel tax or bond measure. On a local level, the funding may be used toward affordable housing projects. Regionally, the funding is used to help cities plan for additional housing.

“(AB 1487) opens the door for resources and tools to preserve affordable housing, protect residents from displacement, and address the severe imbalance between jobs and housing across the Bay Area, ” said Heather Hood, vice president at Enterprise Community Partners, in a press release.

Now that AB 1487 has passed the California State Legislature, Gov. Gavin Newsom is faced with the choice of signing the bill into law. According to NPH, if the bill is signed, the Bay Area Housing Authority will work alongside other Bay Area government agencies to raise funds and create new affordable housing measures.

“This bill holds incredible promise for our region,” said Alina Harway, NPH spokesperson, in an email. “We need our elected leaders to lean in on next steps to ensure we maximize the opportunities brought before us through this bill.”

According to Igor Tregub, vice chair of the Berkeley Measure O Bond Oversight Committee, this could be good news for the city, which has historically faced a housing crisis. Berkeley Mayor and ABAG Vice President Jesse Arreguín said in a statement that small and medium-sized cities “desperately” need additional resources to build new affordable housing and protect existing housing.

Tregub said the proposed bill sounds “great” in concept, although he raised concerns regarding the bill’s execution. Specifically, Tregub mentioned the equitable distribution of funding under the new bill and easy accessibility to the allocated funding as two elements he would like to see if the bill is implemented.

“The sky’s the limit in terms of what this could do for Berkeley,” Tregub said. “This is a very welcome proposal, I am heartened that it overwhelmingly passed the legislature and I hope that the governor signs it.”

Contact Amber Tang and Alexandra Feldman at [email protected].