Less than a decade since the foreclosure crisis wiped out much of a generation's wealth and housing stability, the United States is undergoing a new severe housing crisis with California as an epicenter. The number of California families that can't afford housing has grown tremendously even as a number of communities remain under water from the last crisis. In the Bay Area, the crisis is reconfiguring communities and families' lives across the region, stripping wealth, disconnecting people from each other and opportunity, and generating new patterns of segregation and stratification that may have long-lasting effects. Policy proposals to address the crisis have been partially implemented, but the progress underway promises vastly inadequate solutions.
The barriers to real solutions that reach the scale of the problem are legal, technical, political, and intellectual. For instance, the fights over prioritizing preservation of affordable housing versus creating new housing, mobility versus place-based strategies, and density versus sprawl are a set of false dichotomies that have not served us well. Housing is more than a technical problem for architects, zoning boards, and lawyers; it brings about profound questions of our shared values and political and economic systems. It is more than a shelter, it is a conduit to opportunity, safe neighborhoods, and good schools. It is not only a place to live, it is an instrument for wealth creation and an anchor for having a sense of belonging.
The Othering & Belonging Institute has joined together with ChangeLab and a group of Bay Area social justice leaders and housing advocates to develop a vision and a set of transformative strategies for addressing the housing shortage in the Bay Area in ways that deeply reflect the values of equity and inclusion, and directly address concerns of communities which have been most impacted by the injustices of the current housing system. Our belief is that, collectively, we can develop a path forward that is so bold and consistent with these values and needs that it changes the conversation and becomes a north star inspiring new directions for action.
The process to achieve this vision is one of working as a network to generate, research, and develop new, bold, out-of-the-box ideas for a different housing system. Our research is looking to other countries' housing policies, local experiments, and untested innovations. Some of the initial research is to create baseline analysis of existing housing systems. Our recent report, Unfair Shares, analyzed the racial equity of the Bay Area's Regional Housing Needs Allocation process.