20 years of advocacy for affordable homes is just the beginning

Ann Cheng Headshot

Last year we wrote about how TransForm has supported affordable housing statewide via successful advocacy for the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program. Now, as we prepare to release our “More Homes, Less Driving” initiative as part of our new strategic plan, we wanted to share the broader history of TransForm’s work on affordable housing. While we’re better known for our focus on transportation, we’ve always seen transportation and housing as two sides of the same coin.

1998 - Regional Smart Growth Strategy

TransForm was first organized as the Bay Area Transportation and Land Use Coalition and led the successful effort to get the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to pursue a Regional Smart Growth Strategy. Besides smarter transportation investments, TransForm called for elements including a stronger requirement to include affordable units in new developments near transit.

2004 - “It Takes a Transit Village”

As the Transportation and Land Use Coalition, we wrote a report called “It Takes a Transit Village” about the possibilities of transit-oriented development (TOD) for reducing sprawl and driving, and increasing affordable housing. It was the spearhead for a successful campaign to urge MTC to adopt a 2005 TOD Policy that requires planning for new homes along with any transit investment. Cities were credited a 50% bonus for zoning for housing that was affordable at 60% or less of median incomes.

2006 - Great Communities Collaborative

TransForm co-founded the Great Communities Collaborative (GCC) as a partnership of nonprofits and foundations with the goal of having at least half of the homes built in the Bay Area be in walkable neighborhoods and affordable for people with lower incomes. Over a seven year span, GCC engaged Bay Area communities in planning and supported local groups in more than 23 cities including Oakland, San Jose, South San Francisco, Santa Rosa, Concord, and Walnut Creek. GCC also led the campaign for the country’s first Transit-Oriented Affordable Housing Fund, established with support from MTC, foundations, and the private sector.

2008 - GreenTRIP CertificationGreenTRIP certification presentationGreenTRIP quote

While the GCC made a lot of progress, there have always been communities that did not want to build more homes because of concerns about parking and traffic. In fact, many neighbors fight affordable housing, using the spectre of more traffic congestion and parking problems as their cover.

This inspired us to create GreenTRIP, a certification program to recognize developments that reduce parking and the combined cost of housing and transportation. GreenTRIP promotes housing with cost-saving transportation benefits for their residents such as free transit passes, car share memberships, secure bike parking, and bike sharing — all of which can help people drive less. The money and space saved by building less parking allows for more homes to be built, often helping subsidize affordable units.

To date we’ve certified more than 40 projects with over 6,000 units of which a third are affordable. These projects are expected to result in 30-50% less driving than typical projects. They have also proven that the private market is willing to invest in public transportation by voluntarily committing to over $25 million in guaranteed transit revenue over the next 40 years.

GreenTRIP Connect, a free, easy-to-use online tool that shows projected driving and GHG for proposed residential developments statewide, is the first in the country to quantify the benefit of adding more affordable homes; showing the especially powerful traffic-busting benefits for units dedicated to very-low and extremely-low income income households.

2012 - Regional Prosperity Plan

In 2012, the Bay Area was awarded a $5 million grant to help build a Regional Prosperity Plan (RPP) to ensure planning for new communities would build in economic opportunities for all. Many members of the Great Communities Collaborative and social equity groups were awarded grants to share and develop best practices and new tools for job creation, housing, and tracking risk of displacement. One of these tools was our GreenTRIP Parking Database, a resource to access real parking usage data for residential projects around the Bay. The database helps affordable housing developers show why less parking is needed, often saving millions and in some cases making developments financially feasible.

The database also directly supported the passage of AB744, a landmark state parking reform bill reducing parking requirements for affordable housing, seniors and disabled housing, especially near transit. Minimizing parking reduces costs and creates space for more homes.

2014 - Affordable Housing and Sustainable CommunitiesAHSC rendering

TransForm helped lead a campaign to direct California’s climate investments toward affordable housing near transit. In 2014, we co-authored a pivotal report with the California Housing Partnership called “Why Creating and Preserving Affordable Housing Near Transit is a Highly Effective Climate Protection Strategy.” The report developed a groundbreaking methodology to project climate benefits from affordable homes, and the legislature relied on it in creating the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program. Learn more about this victory from our blog post.

2016 - Finally, a housing impact fee for Oakland

Oakland’s housing impact fee is expected to raise $60M from market-rate developments to fund affordable housing over the next 10 years, which will leverage even more funding from the state and federal government. We worked for years to get this done, in partnership with EBHO, ACCE, Public Advocates, and EBASE. Oakland joined more than 15 other of cities around the Bay that have impact fees. Read more about this campaign.

2016 - BART gets on boardRichmond BART entrance

Working closely with EBHO, Enterprise Community Partners, and the Great Communities Collaborative, BART approved its first transit-oriented development policy. The goal is to build 20,000 new homes by 2040 with 35% designated affordable. Each BART station area will have to have a minimum of 20% of new housing units be affordable. The policy also requires developments to meet GreenTRIP standards for on-site traffic reduction strategies.

2017 - AHSC, $440 million later…

In its first two years, the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program designated more than $440 million for affordable housing and car-free transportation. We outlined the many benefits of the program in a report we co-authored with the California Housing Partnership Coalition and Enterprise Community Partners, The AHSC Program: Collaborative Investments to Reduce Greenhouse Gases and Strengthen Disadvantaged Communities. For example, the program has resulted in a 93 million miles/year drop in car travel, which is very close to what we had projected in our 2014 report.

2018 - Stay tuned!

Affordable housing, especially near transit, will play a prominent role in our forthcoming strategic plan, and we’ve got some other exciting projects in the works that you’ll be hearing about this year. For starters, our ED Stuart Cohen was appointed to the CASA Steering Committee, an MTC initiative bringing together leaders from across the Bay Area to build an actionable political consensus around increasing housing production at all levels of affordability, preserving existing affordable housing, and protecting vulnerable populations from housing instability and displacement.

Housing and transportation are two of the biggest challenges facing California, and we’re committed to bringing TransForm’s integrated solutions to scale. Our forthcoming strategic plan will share our plans to help raise new funds for affordable homes, work with transportation agencies to develop affordable housing on their parking lots, and expand the use of GreenTRIP tools to advocate for affordable homes near transit as a traffic-busting, climate-saving, equitable solution to our most pressing problems.

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About This Blog

TransForum is the blog of TransForm, California's leading transportation advocate. For more about our work, including ways you can take action and contribute, visit TransFormCA.org.