More than your morning commute: BART’s new policy helps bring more affordable homes to Bay Area

 Paul SullivanThe Bay Area is facing an extreme housing crisis. Over the past several years, our region has not built enough housing, nor has it kept up with the ever increasing housing demand. Housing prices have skyrocketed, particularly near public transportation, as more people want to live car-free or car-light lifestyles.

As a member of the BART Board of Directors, I am proud to say that BART is doing something about it.

Last week, our board approved a policy requiring housing developments at BART stations to include at least 20% affordable units. This policy is the first step towards improving BART's overall transit-oriented development policy, which is to be rewritten this year and will include a system-wide goal for affordable housing.

Affordable homes being built near the San Leandro BART stationThe demand for affordable housing at BART is huge: 17,000 people have expressed interest in the 115 affordable units that will open later this year at the San Leandro BART station (pictured to the right).

This policy is not the first time BART has played a role in addressing the affordable housing demand. We have partnered with developers on several affordable housing developers at BART stations. In addition to the San Leandro BRIDGE Housing development, another affordable housing development will open this year at MacArthur BART, and the BART Board recently approved an affordable housing development at Coliseum BART. The new policy ensures that BART will continue to prioritize affordable housing at BART stations and that future developments will include at least 20% affordable housing.

Building affordable housing at BART stations will not only help alleviate the Bay Area’s housing crisis - it will also increase BART ridership and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Multiple studies (including this one by TransForm) have shown that low-income households use transit more frequently and are less likely to own cars.

BART’s new policy will play a critical but still limited role in addressing this crisis. We need the rest of the Bay Area and the state to join us in creating more affordable housing near transit. Nonetheless, thanks to TransForm and the many advocates who helped shape BART’s affordable housing policy (including East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO), Nonprofit Housing Association (NPH), the Sierra Club, Greenbelt Alliance, and the Great Communities Collaborative), I am confident that we are going to make a real positive impact on the lives of people who live and travel in the Bay Area. As a BART Director, I look forward to working with these groups to continue addressing the Bay Area’s housing crisis.

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Rebecca Saltzman has represented BART’s District 3 since 2012. Before she was elected, Director Saltzman spent years as a public transit and policy advocate, coalition builder, grassroots organizer, and manager with local, state, and national issue-based organizations. She lives in Oakland, and relies on BART, buses, and walking to get around.

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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.