NLIHC state coalition partner, the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California (NPH), is working to develop and guide integrated housing and transportation plans for Bay Area communities, to help local jurisdictions comply new state law. In 2009, SB 375 was enacted to integrate transportation and housing plans for cities and counties to encourage transit-oriented development (TOD). The legislation aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, and also requires regions to develop a Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS), an overarching plan that includes a Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) and a Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) plan. The intent of SCS is to increase population density in areas that have significant transportation investments.
As California municipalities draft their general residential zoning plans, known as Housing Elements, they are also mandated to update the RHNA every eight years in order to determine affordable housing needs. Once housing needs are identified based on the amount of housing affordable to each of four income categories (less than 50%, 50-80% and 80-120%, and above 120% of area median income), local governments adjust their zoning plans to identify and make available sites for affordable housing development.
Currently, as municipalities are in the midst of their planning processes, many of the state’s larger, urban centers are facing challenges in increasing their affordable housing stock because these areas already provide much of the state's affordable housing supply. Likewise, suburban communities have been resistant to increasing their share of affordable housing.
To prevent an unbalanced approach to the allocation of affordable housing across the region due to the location of these transportation investments, NPH is serving as a delegate to the Association of Bay Area Government’s Housing Methodologies Committee. The committee is tasked with creating the methodology that supports an equitable distribution of sites for affordable housing across the Bay Area. “Our involvement with the implementation of SB 375 is to work collaboratively with local governments and ensure that Housing Elements promote the development and preservation of affordable housing across all cities and counties, rather than being concentrated in communities that are already strong providers of affordable housing,” says Gabriella Chiarenza, Policy Associate at NPH.
To combat local opposition against plans to increase affordable housing in suburban areas where TOD is most favorable, NPH has developed the Community Acceptance Toolkit and trainings to help local officials, affordable housing residents, and advocates to respond to community opposition. NPH is also hosting tours of affordable housing properties located in affluent areas. These tours introduce local residents, as well as city and county staff, to the increasing need for affordable housing for individuals who travel long distances to work in these areas.
One of NPH’s most dedicated efforts has been in Marin County. Through their Marin Community Housing Action Initiative (MCHAI), now in its third year, NPH is working to encourage affordable housing production in Marin County locations close to public transit and address community concerns that complicate efforts to provide adequate affordable housing. MCHAI staff has worked toward these goals through successful media outreach, research efforts, promotion of affordable housing resident stories, and key participation in guiding Marin County jurisdictions’ Housing Element planning processes.
Earlier this year, NPH released Miles from Home: The Traffic and Climate Impacts of Marin's Unaffordable Housing, a report documenting affordable housing needs and commuting burdens in Marin County. They are currently researching the same impacts and surveying public transportation use by affordable housing residents in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. These reports are set to be released in November.
NPH is also co-sponsoring an economic impact report for Marin County explaining how affordable housing near workplaces generates jobs and revenue in the community. “We hope that through our research, public education, outreach, and local advocacy, we can encourage local officials to make informed decisions about affordable housing and transportation plans and convert community opposition into support for affordable housing,” says Ms. Chiarenza.