UC Berkeley study offers solutions to diversify Bay Area neighborhoods

Berkeley housing
Josh Kahen/Staff
The study provides five strategies to rectify the damaging effects of racial division in neighborhoods. One of these strategies involves curtailing exclusionary zoning, which prevents housing such as multifamily homes, condos and apartments from being built in certain neighborhoods.

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To spread awareness of racial segregation in Bay Area residential areas, UC Berkeley’s Othering and Belonging Institute published its final brief of a five-part research series Aug. 11, providing solutions and strategies to encourage diversity and inclusion.

The series, titled “Racial Segregation in the San Francisco Bay Area,” began with a brief that was published in October 2018. The final brief wraps up the series with a reflection on the legacy of segregation in the Bay Area and suggests five strategies to rectify the damaging effects of racial division in neighborhoods.

“We must do more than simply educate ourselves about the problem; we must find ways to put the Bay Area on a new trajectory, one of greater racial equity and deliberate inclusion and belonging,” the brief states.

The first policy recommendation to encourage diversity in Bay Area neighborhoods is curtailing exclusionary zoning, which prevents housing such as multifamily homes, condos and apartments from being built in certain neighborhoods, according to study co-author Arthur Gailes.

Areas with exclusionary zoning policies are found to have more white residents and fewer Black and Latinx residents, according to the study.

In Berkeley, 49% of all residential zoning is single-family residential zoning, with most of that zoning being in the Berkeley Hills.

The second policy recommendation is protecting existing residents through rent control, which places an upper limit on rent costs. Rent control, according to Gailes, would prevent the displacement of middle and lower-class families from diverse neighborhoods.

The remaining policy approaches include resources to help buyers access housing options in neighborhoods they otherwise might not have considered or been able to afford, inclusionary zoning that requires a certain percentage of new housing be below market rates and housing subsidies to help families afford rent or decrease the cost of building the housing and thus reduce rent costs.

Tim Thomas, research director of UC Berkeley’s Urban Displacement Project, said Berkeley is “trying to do a good job” but still has work to do.

To continue on a path of inclusive housing policies, Thomas said community members must stay informed and politically active. Gailes added that those who wish to advocate for the policy approaches recommended in the study should form collective interest groups and petition city officials.

“At some level, the housing problem that affects the state of California is fairly simple: There are more people who want to live here than we have housing in the Bay Area,” Gailes said. “The first step to remedy that is to build more housing. … We want to build that housing in a way that’s sustainable and benefits everybody from the bottom up.”

Contact Julie Madsen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Julie_Madsen_.