November 27, 2023
By East Bay Housing Organizations
Bay Area jurisdictions have had a piecemeal approach to addressing the housing affordability crisis for far too long. Especially in the wake of COVID-19, it’s clear that this approach has kept us from seeing the bigger picture.
The good news is that there’s hope! The creation of the Bay Area Housing Finance Authority (BAHFA), a first-of-its-kind regional authority tasked with addressing the housing crisis across the region, coordination of messaging among advocates, and a $10-20 billion regional bond measure on the ballot in 2024 are all proof that cities are finally starting to streamline solutions.
As United Way Bay Area (UWBA) and East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO) work across jurisdictions, it has long been clear how our region is interconnected.
Imagine a divorced family. The children may live with their mother half of the week in Oakland, in Alameda County, and their father half of the week in Richmond, in Contra Costa County. Perhaps their parents work across the bridge in San Francisco. Our lives are not governed by city or county boundaries, nor should our housing policies.
Trying to solve the housing crisis city by city rather than working together has enabled elected officials to push the problem off to the next community. By working together, our money, time, and efforts go further to enact solutions.
Though advocates have long been fighting for regional solutions, there has yet to be a governing agency to coordinate. This changed in 2019, when California bill AB 1487 established the Bay Area Housing Finance Authority, also known as BAHFA, as the first regional authority in the Bay Area empowered to coordinate housing solutions. The legislature then financed the agency in 2020 and 2021.
After hiring initial staff, BAHFA is ready to go! The organization just launched its first pilot program, Doorway, an online tool that allows renters to view all affordable housing opportunities regionwide and apply to multiple at once. You can read about all five of the agency’s pilot programs on the MTC website.
To expand their existing programs and coordinate efforts across the Bay Area, BAHFA needs to raise more money. There is currently an exciting ballot measure that would raise $10-20 billion from general obligation bonds that residents across the nine-county Bay Area will vote on in 2024! Money spent by BAHFA will be divided among the “3 P’s” of housing solutions — producing more affordable housing, preserving existing affordable housing, and protecting tenants at both the local and regional levels.
The same advocates pushing for consistent housing policies across the region are also pushing for consistent messaging. Advocacy groups across the Bay Area have been working together in the Shift the Bay coalition, convened by the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California (NPH), to implement poll-tested pro-affordable housing messaging that captures people’s hearts and minds.
Messaging only works when it’s consistent. Using the same messaging across the nine counties, we hope voters will develop a shared understanding of the problem and the solutions we need. This year, the regional Affordable Housing Month theme convened by NPH and United Way Bay Area was “The Bay Area is our neighborhood.”
Renters have also begun pointing to intra-regional disparities in tenant protection policies in their fight for just cause for eviction and rent stabilization. While several large Bay Area cities, including San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley, have some of the most robust renter protections in the state, tenants mere miles away in many suburban jurisdictions have no local protections at all. Regional consistency in tenant protections is necessary to help the hundreds of thousands of our neighbors left behind.
To solve the housing crisis regionwide, we need all hands on deck. Here are two ways that you can join the fight to help continue this work:
The Bay Area Housing for All Coalition is proposing a $10-20 billion regional bond measure for affordable housing on the 2024 ballot. This ballot measure will be voted on by voters across the entire nine-county region and distributed regionwide — 80% of the money raised will go to local governments, and 20% of the funds will go to BAHFA for regional coordination work.
The regional bond measure is an exciting opportunity because it would raise an unprecedented amount of money for affordable housing in the region, fund regional coordination efforts, and raise money for all jurisdictions in the Bay Area, including those that fail to raise sufficient resources on their own accord.
We invite you to think regionally! If you’re looking for affordable housing, check out the Doorway Housing Portal to explore regional options. To learn more about policy regionwide, join East Bay Housing Organizations and attend Regional Policy Committee meetings for updates, action alerts, and discussions.
*When you support United Way Bay Area, you’re helping to build partnerships with organizations like East Bay Housing Organizations to advance housing justice across the Bay Area so that everyone has equitable access to safe, quality, and affordable housing in our region.