Analysis of Bay Area housing goals and housing permitted shows cities with a higher white population were more likely to receive lower goals for moderate- and lower-income housing

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BERKELEY, CA: The San Francisco Bay Area’s less racially diverse cities are not being allocated their fair share of moderate- and lower-income housing, according to new research findings from the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at the University of California, Berkeley.

According to the report, Unfair Shares, researchers determined that after controlling for population size, Bay Area housing allocations for moderate- and low-income residents are correlated with the sizes of the cities' white populations.

Haas Institute researchers Heather Bromfield and Eli Moore analyzed housing data from 1999 to 2017 for all local jurisdictions under the authority of the Association of Bay Area Governments. Their findings raise legal questions about a potentially disparate racial impact in the region’s housing needs allocation methodology, while elevating concerns about housing equity in other parts of California as well.

"The analysis suggests that the Bay Area is still wrestling with a long history of white resistance to housing development that would increase racial and economic diversity," noted john a. powell, director of the Haas Institute and a professor of law, African American and Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley.  

With the region and the state continuing to look for solutions to the housing affordability crisis, many local and state policy changes are on the table. One is in the form of pending legislation to create an enforcement tool for California’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation process. Findings in “Unfair Shares” raises concern about the process of setting RHNA goals, particularly in the Bay Area. "While we applaud statewide efforts to support and make cities accountable to affordable housing goals, if cities are going to be held accountable to these goals, there needs to be assurance that each region’s goals are equitable," notes author Heather Bromfield.  

The report released today also shows the Bay Area’s stark shortcomings in meeting goals for moderate- and lower- income housing. As a whole, the region only permitted 28 percent, 26 percent, and 29 percent of needed moderate-income, low-income and very low-income housing units respectively between 2007 and 2014.

Additionally, the researchers found that more than half the local governments in the region permitted less than 25 percent of the total housing units needed for moderate-, low-, and very low-income households between 2007 and 2014.

Only 5 percent of local governments permitted between 75 and 100 percent of the moderate-, low-, and very-low income housing needed, and only 8 percent permitted more than 100 percent of what was needed.

There is also great variation between cities, with a few exceeding their housing goals.

While San Leandro, Oakley and Richmond permitted more than 100 percent of very low- and low-income housing, cities like Martinez, Fairfield and parts of Napa and Solano counties permitted less than 10 percent of their allocations of very low- and low-income housing.

The Haas Institute makes two recommendations to rectify the problem its researchers uncovered:

  • Modify the Bay Area’s regional housing needs allocation methodology to incorporate fair housing objectives.

  • Specify additional requirements within state laws to promote racial equity within the housing allocation process that all regional councils of governments must observe.

These changes, powell says, would make racial equity and inclusion a formal component of regional housing plans, and reduce the opportunities for local and regional entities to shirk their state-mandated responsibilities. The Institute plans to carry out further research in 2018 into the causes of the disparities.

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Rachelle Galloway-Popotas
Tel: 510-329-0032


Eli Moore

Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at UC Berkeley is a research institute bringing together scholars, community stakeholders, policymakers, and communicators to identify and challenge the barriers to an inclusive, just, and sustainable society in order to create transformative change.