California cities and counties are required by law to make housing fairer

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Where a person lives can affect everything from their health to job opportunities. For generations, local governments have created zoning rules and other policies that limit housing options for people of color.

Now, as key deadlines for a With the state housing law passed in 2018 looming, cities and counties are grappling with how to reverse segregation and the resulting economic inequality.

At a fair housing conference at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco on Friday, government officials, legal experts and community advocates discussed how to meet the requirements of Bill 686 from the Assembly, which requires jurisdictions to study housing inequalities in their community and, within the next year, outline a plan to address it.

“Communities of color have been especially pressed,” said Will Dominie of the Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative, noting that black people and other people of color are likely to have to move disproportionately away from areas they they have been calling for a long time. house because they are overpriced. “We really have a chance now to change these conditions. “

There is no one-size-fits-all way for cities and counties to tackle such complex issues, but it will likely lead to zoning changes and more affordable housing developments in affluent neighborhoods, said Sam Tepperman- Gelfant, General Counsel for Public Advocates.

But according to Barbara Kautz, a partner at the Goldfarb and Lipman law firm, there are significant challenges, ranging from a lack of funding for affordable housing to seemingly conflicting guidelines that such housing must be both close to public transportation. common – which are often found in already dense areas – and that it takes advantage of available vacant land.

“I think it’s going to be… difficult,” Kautz said.

And then there is the retreat of the community. The conference came a day after another bill, Senate Bill 50, which would have allowed for greater density in single-family residential areas and around transit and employment centers, died this year after failing to secure enough votes to overcome a key hurdle in the State Senate.

Whatever the challenges, warned Ada Chan of the Association of Bay Area Governments, local officials have “no excuse” not to start planning. While cities in the region have done a good job adding market-priced housing, they have only added about 20% of the low-rental housing described in the regional housing targets which are expected to increase in the coming years. to come.

“It’s a new day for housing in California,” Chan said.

And, Tepperman-Gelfant warned, “not discriminating more is not enough”.

Cities will need to take concrete steps to limit travel and other problems.

“You can expect that there will be a lot of overzoning required in the next cycle,” Kautz said, referring to the next round of regional housing goals.

Cities and counties need to do a better job, advocates said, connecting with marginalized groups in their communities and ensuring that the strategies adopted reflect their wants and needs.

“As they say, the devil is in the details,” said Ana Lugo of Equity First Consulting, which works with Sonoma County. “Well, fairness too. “

In Sonoma, Lugo said, the county made sure those who contacted residents to collect housing data and other information were from the communities they approached. And the county handed out gift cards to Walmart and Target to people who took the time to answer question pages in the survey.

Right now, recent legislation is mostly made up of “words on a website,” said Tameeka Bennett of Urban Habitat. “You really have to work with people who are hit hard by the housing crisis. “

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