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Bay Area mayors, advocates tout $20 billion bond to build housing

PIX Now - Afternoon Edition 6/20/24
PIX Now - Afternoon Edition 6/20/24 07:02

The mayors of San Francisco, San Jose and Berkeley joined housing advocates at a press conference in San Francisco's Mission District on Thursday to announce support for a proposed $20 billion housing bond that would fund regional housing goals.

Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao was also scheduled to appear at the press conference to express support for the regional measure but was not in attendance. A home connected to her was raided by the FBI earlier in the day.

Thao released a statement endorsing the bond plan, which would fund 90,000 affordable housing units in the Bay Area. Her office did not respond to an inquiry about whether the absence was related to the raid.

The mayors are trying to find ways to fund regional housing goals mandated by the state that call for hundreds of thousands of new affordable homes to be built in the current housing cycle, which ends in 2031 in the Bay Area.

The regional Bay Area Housing Finance Authority, or BAHFA, will vote on Wednesday on whether to put the measure on the November ballot. If placed on the ballot, it would need to be approved by 55% of voters across the nine counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, Sonoma, and San Francisco.

Under the state's Regional Housing Needs Assessment, known as RHNA, the Bay Area's nine counties and 101 cities must collectively build about 441,000 new residential units by 2031.

Housing units must accommodate a range of income levels, including nearly 115,000 units reserved for residents with very low incomes. That's defined by the state as someone making between 30%-50% of the Area's Median Income, or AMI. In San Francisco, the AMI is nearly $105,000 for a single person and just less than $150,000 for a family of four.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed said the city had made some housing mistakes in the past and recounted living in a public housing complex when she was younger that was torn down, only to have the 300 units there replaced with 200 units.

"We didn't prepare for the future," Breed said. "We didn't prepare for a growing city, and housing has been a bit at a standstill in terms of our ability to get more built," she said.

Breed said there were several projects that could be advanced in the city if they had more funding.

The proposed general obligation bond measure calls for directing 80% of the money raised to county governments for housing allocations and the remaining 20% to the Housing Finance Authority for housing targeting people experiencing homelessness.

San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan said the city was trying to end "the era of encampments."

"Given the immediate, urgent, humanitarian, fiscal and environmental crises of homelessness, I see the most vital part of this regional housing measure as the flexible funding that will allow us to expand immediate solutions, interim housing, and get people out of the unsafe and unmanaged conditions on our streets and along our creeks," Mahan said.

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin, who is also the vice president of the Association of Bay Area Governments, or ABAG, said housing and affordability could only be addressed with regional solutions.

"The housing affordability crisis is not just a big city problem," Arreguin said. "It affects each and every jurisdiction in all nine Bay Area counties. This is a regional problem that requires a regional solution, and cities large and small must rise to the occasion."

If the BAHFA votes to place the measure on the November ballot, the campaign in support of the bond measure would be run by the nonprofit organization Bay Area Housing for All.   

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