This month, the Committee to House the Bay Area (CASA) reached an important milestone. The CASA Technical Committee, a group of housing policy experts from throughout the Bay Area wrapped up development of dozens of action plans designed to tackle the housing and displacement crisis. Now, a subset of those plans will go before the CASA Steering Committee for review.
For the last six months, members of the CASA Technical Committee drafted, vetted, and voted on ‘action plans’ designed to tackle CASA’s three goals, known as the “Three Ps”: Protecting vulnerable populations from displacement; Producing more housing; and Preserving existing affordable housing stock. On July 18, the CASA Technical Committee wrapped up this process, having voted on a total of 36 action plans over the last several months. The conclusion of the action plans’ development marks a significant milestone in the 16-month CASA process.
Now attention turns to the CASA Steering Committee, comprised primarily of elected officials and other thought leaders, including the Mayors of San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland. The CASA Steering Committee will consider the action plans drafted by the Technical Committee over the next several months.
On Wednesday, July 25, the Steering Committee considered four action plans proposed by the CASA Technical Committee. The four action ideas include efforts to prevent extreme rent increases, no net loss of affordable units, regional inclusionary zoning, and reductions to impact fees.
Regionwide Rent Control Policy
The Technical Committee considered several variations of a regional rent control policy to prevent burdensome rent increases. One version of the plan is modeled after existing rent control ordinances in cities like Oakland and San Francisco, which cap annual rent increases according to changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Under this plan, which would require enabling legislation, all municipalities in the Bay Area would be required to adopt a CPI-based rent control policy that meets minimum standards.
Alternatively, the Technical Committee also considered an anti-gauging measure, which would prevent Bay Area landlords from increasing rent by more than 10 percent per year. More lenient than CPI-based rent control, this policy is similar to the Emergency Anti-Gouging policy already in place in California, where landlords cannot gouge renters during times of emergency, such as the 2017 fires in Sonoma County.
No Net Loss/First Right of Refusal
The “No Net Loss” action plan pursues state legislation that mandates a 1:1 replacement of any rent-restricted or market-rate affordable unit that is demolished. The proposal would require that tenants who are displaced from their homes due to the demolition of affordable units would be granted the right of first refusal to the new units, which would be offered at their previous rental rate.
Regional Inclusionary Zoning
Though many Bay Area cities already have inclusionary zoning ordinances, this action plan creates a consistent, regional inclusionary zoning framework. Inclusionary zoning policies require developers to include a certain percentage of affordable units (typically 10-15 percent) in their developments. This policy is one method of creating mixed-income communities and increasing production of affordable units.
Reduce Impact Fees
This action plan requires state legislation to change the structure of impact fee imposition with the goal of reducing high costs and confusion in the development process. This legislation would include locking rules and fees at development application completion, changing the imposition calculation from a “per unit” basis to a “per square foot” basis, and reducing or eliminating impact fees on small middle-income developments or deed restricted units. This policy could significantly lower costs for developers while increasing feasible production at lower income levels.
Next Steps for CASA
Estolano LeSar Advisors will continue to facilitate the process through December, when CASA aims to compete a Regional Compact that incorporates the top policy recommendations emerging from the process. Visit the CASA website for more information.
Jennifer LeSar, President and CEO, has more than 30 years of experience in the real estate development and investment banking industries, and brings a diverse background to her work in community development and urban revitalization. Her technical expertise spans from policy and program development to comprehensive strategic planning for top executives and executive teams to the origination and underwriting of complex investments in equity funds, multi-family portfolios, historic, and low-income tax credit properties utilizing federal and state financing programs. She can be reached at email@example.com.