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  • Grecia Mannah-Ayon

How the Bay Area Housing Bond Boosts Our Fight Against Climate Change

Updated: Jun 14

On May 23, Transform Housing Policy Manager Grecia Mannah-Ayon joined Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin and advocates from Save the Bay and Greenbelt Alliance to discuss the impact of the Bay Area Regional Housing Bond, which will be on the November ballot. The webinar was timely, held during Affordable Housing Month, and the speakers delved into the many ways more affordable housing benefits everyone in the Bay Area.

Not only will the historic $20 billion bond provide much-needed affordable housing for thousands of families; it will also reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and GHG emissions, as a recent Transform analysis showed.

Save the Bay’s Allison Chan introduced the topic and moderated the Q&A at the end of the webinar. Arreguin called the housing measure a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to address our region’s affordability crisis.” He also noted that the more dense housing we build in the urban core, the more cars we take off the road. “Housing is an environmental issue,” he said.

Arreguin also noted that it’s critical to pass a constitutional amendment, ACA-1, which will also be on the ballot in November, reducing the minimum margin required to pass housing bonds from two-thirds to 55%. He noted that a $600 million affordable housing and infrastructure bond in Berkeley got more than 55% approval but didn’t meet the higher threshold. 

Jordan Grimes, the Resilience Manager at the Greenbelt Alliance, stated one goal of the bond measure is to “create a regional community that everyone can call home.” He detailed the provisions of the bond measure, noting that it will provide funding to keep existing housing units affordable as well as build new housing. Grimes notes that there are hundreds of affordable development projects across the Bay Area that are planned and ready to go but waiting for financing to move forward. These projects could start construction quickly once bond funds become available.

Transform’s Mannah-Ayon spoke about the climate impact of building thousands of affordable units near public transportation, which will prevent over 3 million metric tons of carbon pollution from being released into the atmosphere. She called for advocacy to ensure that new homes are sited in transit-rich areas to maximize the benefit to the climate and the residents. It’s not about eliminating driving but giving people options; Mannah-Ayon mentioned a recent event at an affordable housing development in San Jose that is near a BART station: “What I love about Betty Ann Gardens is that residents have a choice in how they get around.”

All the speakers noted the intersectionality of this issue. It touches on homelessness, housing affordability, climate, environment, transportation, and community. Chan noted that new voices bring new life to neighborhoods, so the infill housing built with funds from the bond measure stands to revitalize Bay Area communities. Mannah-Ayon noted that there are also transit-rich areas that aren’t in dense urban cores, where new housing could bring new community life.

The question portion of the webinar delved into more specifics about the bond and how the funds would be spent. It closed with a call from Arreguin to knock on doors and raise money to pass this critical bond measure. Grimes encouraged attendees to reach beyond the housing advocates in their networks to build support for the measure, and Mannah-Ayon noted that the days of operating in silos are over; we have to see all these issues as connected, especially in the face of catastrophic climate change. She said we must change the perception that affordable housing only benefits the people who live in the units; these new homes will benefit local economies and the larger environment and improve the fabric of our neighborhoods.

Watch the webinar recording.


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