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  • Grecia Mannah-Ayon

Regional Housing Bond Protects Climate Too




When I was a high school student with a single mom who worked long hours, my sister and I had limited choices for getting to school. In the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles County, taking public transit home from my high school took two hours, while walking took one hour. Limited by our exhausting choices, my mother eventually bought a beater car for my older sister to get us around. It was harmful to the environment, but it was the only viable option my family had since the homes in the more transit-connected neighborhoods of our city were out of our reach financially.


Everyone deserves better choices than I had growing up. The Bay Area Regional Housing Bond measure, a $20 billion bond that will come before voters in November, presents a critical opportunity to create more choices for Bay Area residents. If successful, it will alleviate our housing deficit and create a model for sustainable living that will move people away from having to choose driving as their primary form of transportation. 


We are facing a climate catastrophe yet continue to generate GHGs at an alarming rate. At the same time, California faces a housing crisis that has led to record numbers of residents lacking stable housing or living far from jobs and opportunities. The magnitude and scale of these problems call upon us to reconsider how communities are built and begin centering sustainability, connectivity, and affordability.


The housing bond would build upwards of 40,000 units of affordable housing within easy access to high-quality transit. When people live close to transit, they drive less, pollute less, and save money. Transform, an Oakland nonprofit where I have been Housing Policy Manager for the past year, analyzed the climate impacts of building those units and found that it would reduce driving by an amount equivalent to taking more than 17,000 cars off the road annually. This new housing will prevent the release of 3 million metric tons of greenhouse gasses, improving the health of our planet and our bodies. 


The California Energy Commission finds that the transportation sector is responsible for 50% of GHG emissions. Building green, affordable housing close to robust public transportation increases access to critical community amenities and can combat a significant source of our state’s carbon emissions. 


We can mitigate climate impacts while addressing housing and homelessness. Affordable infill housing near transit will prevent working-class and low-income residents from being pushed to the outskirts of the region, shorten commute times, reduce driving, increase opportunity, and create vibrant, diverse neighborhoods. 

 

The regional housing bond will move us closer to the carbon-neutral future we need to prevent and reverse climate chaos. Creating affordable homes near transit is a proven model for fostering sustainable living and thriving communities. There is joy and power in having a choice in how you get around, and all people, regardless of income, deserve that choice. 


Buying a second car put a strain on my family’s finances that our household was hard-pressed to afford. If we had the option of an affordable home close to jobs, schools, and other services, our lives would have been easier, more prosperous, and more climate-friendly. My personal experience of the costs of geographic isolation has motivated me to pursue housing and climate justice in my career, advocating for solutions like the Bay Area Regional Housing Bond. 


The Bay Area Housing Finance Authority (BAHFA) voted on June 26 to place the measure on the November ballot. I strongly encourage BAHFA to approve the placement of this measure on the ballot. Once this hurdle is cleared, the choice will be in voters’ hands — a monumental opportunity to shape our climate and our communities for decades to come. Join me in supporting this essential measure for climate and housing — and for a greener future.

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