The 2016 Affordable Housing & Sustainable Communities (AHSC) program will improve the lives of thousands of low-income Californians – twenty-five future affordable housing developments with 2,250 homes will receive a total of $289 million in state funding. Many of these have strong public transit access and will strengthen communities and help families save money and time, shorten commutes, and reduce traffic congestion, among so many other benefits. We want to celebrate this critical funding source for affordable housing throughout the state, and to tell the story of TransForm’s role in supporting its development and evolution into a model program for social equity and climate protection. We will follow up with a second post showing a timeline of TransForm’s work that built towards this victory.
About AHSC and TransForm’s role
In 2012 TransForm and Housing California outlined a proposal to invest in affordable housing and public transportation with funds that would soon be raised via cap-and-trade auctions. In 2013, the two groups started coordinating the Sustainable Communities for All (SC4A) coalition, and more than 50 other groups joined around a common proposal for distributing cap-and-trade revenues. We worked closely with legislative leaders and their staff to help them understand the benefits of all of these complementary strategies.
A major focus of the SC4A platform was using greenhouse gas (GHG) revenues to fund affordable homes near transit (affordable transit oriented development - TOD). Yet state agencies and legislative leaders like Senator Fran Pavley felt there needed to be a more defensible strategy to quantify the GHG benefits. With crucial funding from the Ford Foundation for new research and a key report, TransForm and the California Housing Partnership Corporation were able to radically shift the conversation.
The final cap and trade plan reserves 20% of annual proceeds for investments in affordable homes and sustainable communities. The program has been expertly implemented by the state’s Strategic Growth Council. The primary purpose of AHSC is to reduce GHG emissions by providing grants to support the development of strategically located affordable housing and supportive transportation infrastructure.
To that end, every project that applies for an AHSC grant must analyze how many metric tons of GHGs it will reduce through various strategies – such as locating near transit, building affordable units, reducing parking, separating parking from the cost of rent, providing transit passes to residents, increasing density, locating near jobs, etc. Most strategies have an associated GHG reduction, and the project is awarded a “score” that depends partly on these reductions.
AHSC by the numbers…
The demand for AHSC funds is clear. About 120 projects initially applied in 2016, asking for $1.1 billion collectively. In the end only 25 projects received awards, totaling $289 million.
TransForm assisted about 40 projects in 2016 that applied for AHSC funds by advising them on greenhouse gas reduction strategies and completing the GHG evaluations for their applications. We’re proud that 14 of these projects were awarded funding, and received a combined $180 million.
Winning projects incorporated housing, public transportation, and city infrastructure supporting biking and walking. The geographic spread was notable – from El Cajon to Redding, with smaller cities as well as Oakland, San Jose, San Francisco and Los Angeles. These are amazing projects showing just how much housing can integrate transportation solutions for residents, and how transit agencies, cities and developers can work together to bring exemplary housing projects to our communities.
We are already starting to work with interested projects on pre-evaluations for the next round of AHSC funding. The 2017 Notice of Funds Available (NOFA) for AHSC will likely be released this summer, and since we know what works well, we are happy to support excellent projects right now. More information on the services we offer are available here.
GreenTRIP Connect, Certifications and Research
At TransForm, we have also released GreenTRIP Connect, a free, easy-to-use online tool that shows GHG reductions for new residential developments statewide, which is similar to the AHSC program calculations.
GreenTRIP Connect allows developers to select a parcel of land being considered for development and instantly see predicted benefits of locating near transit, providing traffic reduction strategies like carsharing, and building homes affordable to a range of incomes. The tool provides clear, visual information that empowers community members to identify ways to improve and support developments, rather than just feel like they need to oppose them. Cities can reference Connect in zoning codes, either allowing the output of the tool to be used to recommend parking and transportation strategies, or requiring it.
Our GreenTRIP Certification program in the Bay Area highlights driving and GHG reductions similar to AHSC. As a result we’ve maintained our position as an authority on guiding projects and scoring criteria since the inception of the AHSC program.
There are ongoing research projects furthering this important work: quantifying trips and driving for affordable housing (Caltrans), and affordable transit oriented development travel demand (ARB). We are involved and supporting these studies as well.
We are so proud to have been a part of all these efforts to create affordable housing near transit over the years. It is incredible to see projects like Riviera Family Apartments in Walnut Creek near BART or Anchor Place for veterans in Long Beach being funded and built with integrated land use and transportation needs as a top priority.
When the California State Legislature established AHSC, they built into the program the kind of collaboration between housing, transportation and city leaders that we have been working on for years. Indeed, the progress that we made in the Bay Area was integral to make the case for the program and demonstrate how well it could work.
To be continued... Stay tuned for Part 2 of 2!