Unfair Shares



Policy Solutions

Modify the Regional Housing Needs Allocation strategy to ensure racial equity 

To resolve these issues within the current RHNA methodology, a revised allocation strategy should explicitly consider Fair Housing objectives and the regional distribution of opportunity. This will likely involve changing how ABAG/MTC currently takes Plan Bay Area into account when creating a RHNA methodology. Incorporating Plan Bay Area into RHNAs is required by SB 375, but there is considerable flexibility in how ABAG/MTC can incorporate this planning document into RHNAs, and during the 5th cycle this was largely done by allocating more housing to jurisdictions with PDAs. 

We contend that although constructing housing in PDAs is one important strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, an equally important way of achieving this goal is to reduce the number of workers who must commute daily into wealthy counties, such as Marin and Napa, because of the absence of low income housing options in non-PDA areas in those counties. Creating more low income housing options in Transit Priority Projects areas, in particular, would serve the explicit objectives of the Housing Element Law, which seeks to promote socioeconomic equity and improve the regional jobs-housing relationship. Furthermore, ABAG/MTC should explicitly consider existing research that maps the locations of affordable housing shortages in the Bay Area, which could result in simultaneously address desegregation, Fair Housing, and decreasing vehicle miles traveled.21

In the future, any attempt to balance housing production with climate change mitigation goals should promote racial and income integration, particularly by placing more weight on the jobs-housing mismatch and by testing whether any new methodology has a disparate racial impact, or if it is likely to augment concentrations of poverty.22,22 It stands to be noted that many PDAs are located in areas with fewer public resources, higher levels of environmental pollutants, and in many cases, lower overall levels of opportunity as defined by the California State Fair Housing Taskforce.24 As a consequence, in addition to furthering segregation and raising Fair Housing issues, the distribution of RHNAs in the Bay Area may reduce access to opportunity by restricting housing options for low income populations into a few relatively under-resourced jurisdictions.

In some cases, making progress towards transit-oriented development goals and improving income integration may involve constructing above-moderate income housing in gentrifying areas. It is crucial in these cases for jurisdictions to ensure that there are adequate renter protections in place to ensure that achieving these goals does not come at the expense of displacing existing residents. ABAG/MTC can play a role in this process by making funding for new development projects conditional on protecting existing residents. They can additionally continue to provide technical assistance to cities that promote increasing the supply of affordable housing, including density bonuses, inclusionary zoning, and affordable housing overlays. In low income areas, encouraging these sorts of development incentives for mixed-income housing may additionally help to reduce community opposition that has developed in response to market-rate development, and as a consequence may assist cities in meeting their housing production goals.

If enforcement is tightened on jurisdictions to permit higher percentages of their allocations with no concurrent effort to adjust how these allocations are developed in the first place, the jurisdictions who will feel the greatest strain in the Bay Area will be the cities with the highest proportions of people of color.

Strengthen accountability of regional Council of Governments’ RHNA process to state law

Several bills that are being considered for inclusion in a “housing package” in the California legislature as of August 2017 aim to increase accountability for jurisdictions that are not pulling their weight according to RHNA. One important way in which the legislation could ameliorate the inequities in the RHNA process is by giving HCD statutory authority to revise the allocation methodologies that councils of governments (COGs) produce in the event that the methodology does not comply with the Housing Element law. Furthermore, legislation could include more specific language regarding how the objectives of the Housing Element law should be factored into the allocation numbers, and what factors should receive the greatest weight. For example, a jobs-housing fit analysis could be added as a required aspect of the allocation methodology, and COGs could be required to test for disparate racial impacts before adopting a methodology. Changing the state statute would ensure that during the politicized process in which COGs develop allocation methodologies, that anti-growth cities are not able to lobby for methodologies that reduce their allocation sizes. 

Further Research 

Analyze City Practices for Facilitating Development of Moderate and Lower Income Housing

There is a enormous range of cities accommodating their share of moderate and lower income housing, with a few cities exceeding their allocations while most fall far short. This report analyzed these housing outcomes but did not explore the conditions, policies and practices that make the difference. Better understanding of how local governments proactively expand the production of affordable housing, and how others exert influence to prevent it, will help illuminate strategies to adapt across jurisdictions and specific measures to remove obstacles to affordable housing in the region. Such analysis should consider the interaction of local governments with the Regional Housing Needs Allocation process, examining the RHNA criteria and institutional decision-making in relationship to the particular conditions and agendas of local governments. 

Analyze what made the 4th Cycle RHNA methodology produce more equitable allocations 

Our analysis found that the RHNA methodology used for the 4th cycle produced more equitable allocations than in the 3rd and 5th cycles. While it is clear that the 5th Cyce methodology was developed with the SB 375 in mind, further research is needed to explore what went into the 4th cycle methodology that made it more equitable than the other two cycles, and how the Bay Area could return to a more equitable RHNA methodology without running afoul of state statutes.

  • 21. California Government Code 65584(d).
  • 22. a. b. Benner, Chris, and Alex Karner (2016). “Low-wage jobs-housing fit: identifying locations of affordable housing shortag - es.” Urban Geography.
  • 24. The State Fair Housing Taskforce was convened by the California Treasury Tax Credit Allocation Committee and the Department of Housing Community Development in 2017. The Taskforce is a coalition of researchers and policy ad - vocates, including the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, Enterprise Community Partners, California Housing Partnership Corporation, the Center for Regional Change at UC Davis, and sev - eral other organizations. The Taskforce will be publicly releasing maps in the late summer of 2017.