Nov 13, 2018
by Will Carruthers
On Nov. 6, Measure N, Santa Rosa’s $124 million affordable housing bond and Proposition 10, the statewide measure that would have allowed cities more power to pass rent control laws, both failed at the ballot box.
Despite their failures, the proposals - one to fund the construction of affordable housing and another to allow cities more power to protect tenants from rapid rent increases - represent two methods for making the state's housing more affordable.
One similar framework for looking at solutions to the county and regional housing crisis comes from a new regional housing effort, CASA, known as the Committee to House the Bay Area.
On Wednesday, CASA released a draft policy proposals meant to address the regional housing crisis over the next 15 years.
CASA's draft policies are generally grouped into three categories: producing more housing, preserving existing housing and strengthening tenant protections.
CASA consists of two committees convened by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the agency responsible for regional transportation planning and financing in the Bay Area. CASA's Technical and Steering committees are made up of local elected officials as well as business, labor and nonprofit housing officials.
At this point, the committees can only make recommendations. To gain the power and financing to enact its policies, CASA will need to ask state legislators for the power to create a permanent regional housing authority and then ask Bay Area voters to approve a ballot measure to create a new, on-going funding stream for regional housing programs.
For the past several years, California cities, including Santa Rosa, have attempted to pass local rent control and tenant protection laws to varying degrees of success. The California Apartment Association has been busy shutting down many of the attempts.
On Nov. 6, Proposition 10, a statewide ballot initiative to repeal restrictions on the forms of housing city and county ordinances can affect with rent control, failed by a 20 percent margin after the bill's opponents outspent its supports by a 3-to-1 margin.
CASA's draft compact suggests writing standards for Just Cause Eviction policies, instituting an emergency rent cap on housing in the region, and guaranteeing legal counsel for tenants facing eviction.
Susan Shaw, co-director of the North Bay Organizing Project, which held a community outreach meeting in partnership with the MTC to gather input on CASA in July, hopes that CASA's final compact will include greater protections for tenants.
“The [outreach meetings showed the] need for renters to be protected from unscrupulous landlords,” Shaw said.
A 10 percent cap on rental increases in counties affected by the 2017 fires is scheduled to end on December 4. Shaw said that NBOP has been asking local politicians to extend the cap.
Five of the CASA suggestions aim to increase and speed housing production. Policies aimed to increase production would remove regulations barring tiny homes and accessory dwelling units and enact minimum zoning requirements near transit hubs.
Two suggested policies to allow projects to pass through the planning process more quickly and effectively include one policy to improve an existing state law to streamline housing approval processes and another meant to make local governments be more consistent in their housing approval processes.
Most of Sonoma County’s attempts at solving the housing crisis including Measure N and recent changes to city and county planning ordinances have been aimed at increasing the production of new affordable and market rate housing.
A final recommendation aims to incentivize Bay Area cities and counties to build affordable housing on public land.
The final two elements of the compact are the most crucial: establishing a regional entity to implement the committees' recommendations and raising an additional $1.5 billion in annual funding to pay for its plans.
Creating a regional entity would require approval from the state legislature and creating a new funding mechanism could require passing a ballot measure.
Under the draft plan, the regional body would "allocate up to 10 percent of the new revenue for local jurisdiction incentives, up to 10 percent for [tenant] protection strategies, up to 20 percent for [affordable housing] preservation, and a minimum of 60 percent for the production of subsidized units for lower-income households (extremely-low, very-low and low-income)."
On Dec. 12, the CASA committees will vote on whether or not to pass the recommendations.
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