Guiding Principles for Housing Policy
The tech economy has driven massive growth in the Bay Area over the last decade. For some, this growth has created unprecedented windfalls. For too many others, it has meant exacerbated inequality and displacement, and the erosion of some of our most vulnerable communities.
We believe the housing crisis, specifically the region’s inability to build enough housing at all income levels to keep up with our population growth, along with persistent and systemic racial discrimination, are at the root of this problem. Since 2011 the region has created over four jobs per unit of housing, driving up costs at a rate that makes it impossible for many to keep up. Communities of color, which have been intentionally left out of growth cycles of the past, are acutely affected by the crisis.
In order for a growing economy — driven in large part by the tech industry — to benefit more people and to lift up communities that need it the most, we must find solutions to this increasingly urgent issue.
This document outlines the TechEquity Collaborative’s approach to engaging with the housing crisis, both the advocacy campaigns we will undertake and the partnerships we will build around those campaigns. These principles also represent a statement of values for our member base (primarily tech workers). It is a living document that will be re-evaluated and revised periodically, in consultation with TechEquity’s housing committee and our housing advisory board.
For the first time in recent history, all the pieces are in place to fix the affordability crisis for good. When you become a member, you make your voice louder in this fight and take the first step towards building a more equitable Bay Area.
We believe the following to be true
Housing is a human right.
Housing should be treated like the fundamental human survival need that it is, alongside food and water. We consider access to housing for all residents — regardless of income level — to be a marker of civilized society. To fail to meet this need is a tragedy and a shame.
We must make policy with an eye towards the future not the past.
Though we must be informed by our history, and place value on the character of our neighborhoods, we cannot cling to the past as we look to make policy. Our population is growing, our economy is changing, and our climate and natural resources are under stress. Making policy that assumes we live in a prior century will hurt everyone. We also need to embrace, and not repel, the companies and workers that make up the industries of the future. New, innovative people and ideas are necessary to solve this crisis. California has always been a place for entrepreneurs, and we should continue to nurture innovation and human progress, leaving no one behind in the new economy.
There's room enough for everyone.
No one should be made to feel unwelcome in the Bay Area. Bay Area residents pride ourselves on our progressive, inclusive politics and those values should extend to those who want to make this region their home. This includes newcomers and long-term residents, old and young, and all races, classes and creeds. Newcomers also should respect the perspectives of residents who have been here for decades, and seek to understand the culture, people and history of this place they now call home.
Housing shouldn't be a zero-sum game.
Too often different factions in the housing fight view a win by another faction as a loss for theirs. Affordable housing developers sometimes get pitted against anti-displacement activists. Local governments play hot potato with responsibility for tackling the crisis. Piecemeal policy solutions are presented in the absence of a larger vision for how they fit together to end the housing crunch — and interest groups are left fighting for scraps. We must create a different political dynamic that eschews either/or decisions and embraces a both/and approach. We must recognize that our fates are intertwined and adopt a spirit of collaboration if we are to break our political gridlock. The Bay Area can protect its current residents while welcoming newcomers. Building the Bay Area of tomorrow and defending the rights of existing residents do not have to be mutually exclusive goals.
Pro-Development: We must build more housing at all income levels, with a priority for affordable housing
We have to build more housing.
The state needs 180,000 new units of housing every year to keep up with population growth. Over the past ten years, we have averaged only 80,000 units per year. Breaking the gridlock that creates this restriction of supply will require:
Providing more capital for affordable housing development.
When the state legislature eliminated California’s local redevelopment agencies, they removed a primary source of funding for affordable housing developments. Redevelopment agencies were required to spend twenty percent of their funds on affordable housing — which amounts to $1 billion in capital for these projects that no longer exists. Though recently-passed local bond measures, like Measure A1 in Alameda County and Propositions A and C in San Francisco, provide much-needed new capital for development, it is far from enough.
Reducing the costs of development.
Right now, it costs almost $600,000 to build one unit of housing in San Francisco, and $420,000 to build one unit in the East Bay. The high cost of housing makes it harder for developers to secure the financing to fund a project and, when projects do go forward, high costs are passed on to renters or homeowners.
Streamlining permitting processes.
One of the main drivers of the high cost of housing is the length and complexity of the permitting process. Affordable housing development that requires permission from more than one municipal board adds at least five percent to the cost of a project. In order to reduce costs, and bring more units online faster, we must make the approval process easier.
Reforming land use rules.
There are too many onerous restrictions on how land can be developed in the Bay Area, and not enough incentives for municipalities to zone for housing instead of retail or office space. We should pursue policies that encourage housing as a development priority. We should also promote density, especially near transit, not just to bring the cost of housing down but to reduce the strain on our environment — and our well-being — caused by long commutes.
Unlocking public land throughout the region.
Throughout the Bay Area, various public agencies hold and manage public land, some of which is ideal for housing. Land is one of the key resources that can bring the cost of development down. We should establish bold goals for building housing on government-owned properties.
Anti-Displacement: We must protect vulnerable communities from being pushed out
Often lost in the conversation about solutions to the housing crisis is attention to how we can help the most vulnerable residents stay in their homes now. The housing we need to build to make up the shortfall will take years to come online, even if we break ground on every project tomorrow. In the meantime, more and more vulnerable residents will be displaced, pushed into homelessness or so far out of the region that they can’t reasonably access the employment opportunities our booming economy creates.
We have to prioritize solutions to the displacement crisis as much as we prioritize increasing new housing supply. This means:
Enhancing tenant protections.
Many cities have enacted “just cause” policies (meaning landlords can only evict tenants for a good reason) and provide support for tenants who are facing eviction but these resources are not universally available. We should make sure that renter protections — that weigh the needs of small mom-and-pop landlords — not only exist but are accessible to the most vulnerable tenants, increasing the likelihood they can stay in their homes.
Enforcing fair housing laws and preventing discrimination.
The federal Fair Housing Act and other laws prevent discrimination in the sale or leasing of housing, but it is rarely effectively enforced. We should invest in solutions that will prevent housing discrimination and increase awareness among residents of their rights. We also need to lower barriers for formerly incarcerated residents who are often unfairly barred from housing upon their release.
Converting existing housing stock to permanently affordable units.
The City of Oakland has championed a policy that incentivizes affordable housing developers to purchase apartment buildings from private landlords and convert the units to permanently affordable housing. This approach is not only more cost effective, it adds to the affordable housing stock much more quickly than building new units.
Exploring reforms to rent control regulations.
The Costa-Hawkins law prevents any housing built in California after 1995 from being subject to rent control. This means landlords can increase rents on new units of housing as much as they want. While there are compelling reasons to believe rent control can lead to restricted supply, we should seek out middle ground solutions that protect renters from exorbitant year-over-year rent increases while at the same time incentivizing new development.
Acknowledge and account for the racial bias inherent in the system
Underlying both of these policy priorities is a need to acknowledge that current settlement patterns and housing systems are built on a legacy of racism. Any work on housing policy must take this history into account, and support efforts to undo the effects of decades of government-sanctioned segregation and lack of investment in communities of color (particularly black communities). This means racial impacts must be included in decisions about the location and prioritization of developments and that we should favor projects that bring benefits to existing community members. We also must hold communities that have traditionally practiced exclusion in their zoning and housing policies to account, and pursue policies that can add housing opportunities for all income levels in these places.
TechEquity Housing Committee & Advisory Board
These TechEquity Collaborative members work closely with TEC staff to make sure our members’ voices are included in our housing work.
Adam Garrett-Clark currently works as the Operations Coordinator at Causa Justa :: Just Cause, a tenent protection agency that works in both San Francisco and Oakland. He lives in and manages a tiny house community, and is an advocate for Tiny House and mobile home friendly policy in Oakland. Adam is also a property manager for a small 4-plex apartment building. He is a Bay Area native who has been a transplant in other cities and countries. He documented and perhaps contributed to the gentrification process of the Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights in New York City after the 2008 crash as a newspaper reporter. He has worked in San Francisco’s water-front as an independent pedicab driver for seven years.
Ryan Ko, a tech-oriented jack-of-all trades, is the son of immigrant parents, born in Maryland and Bay Area resident since age 2. By day, Ryan solves challenging problems for corporate, government, and non-profit clients on complex topics for McKinsey & Company in San Francisco and Palo Alto (mostly technology companies and foundations interested in K-12 education). By night, he is a progressive activist with campaign experience at national, state, and local levels. Ryan’s favorite places to volunteer locally are Habitat for Humanity East Bay / Silicon Valley and KIPP Bay Area schools. He is a proud Golden State Warriors season ticket holder.
Molly Turner is an urban planner and tech policy pioneer. She is a leading voice on urban innovation as a Lecturer at UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, an advisor to civic startups, and a board member of SPUR San Francisco and Tumml. Turner was an early employee of Airbnb, where she established the company’s public policy team in 2011. As the Global Head of Civic Partnerships, Turner directed the company’s partnerships with governments around the world, including its international disaster response program, neighborhood tourism development program, and 2015 launch in Cuba. Before Airbnb, Turner worked for the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, the UNESCO World Heritage Cities Program, and an urban planning consulting firm. Turner holds a Master in Urban Planning from Harvard University and a BA from Dartmouth College.
Derek Slater is a strategist and campaigner who works at the intersection of technology and public policy. He is part of Google’s public policy team, where he has led campaigns related to improving Americans’ economic opportunity, broadband access, net neutrality, and civil liberties. Prior to his role at Google, he was the activism coordinator at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. He grew up in Santa Rosa, CA and has been a renter in San Francisco for over a decade.
Daniil Karp is the Director of Marketing at Teamable and has spent the past decade building marketing and sales development teams at SaaS startups. Before working in tech Daniil organized youth development and civic engagement efforts throughout the state of California.
Alex Lofton is the Head of Growth at Landed, the SF-based company he cofounded in 2015 to help essential community members, like teachers, access homeownership closer to where they work. In a past life, Alex was a celebrated campaign organizer for President Obama, an executive at tech and purpose-driven startups, and a graduate of Northwestern and Stanford Universities. He lives with his partner of seven years and spends his decompression time in the mountains, by the ocean, on the dance floor, or playing the “funcle” (fun-uncle) role.
Sonam works at Health2047, the innovation arm of the AMA aimed at leveraging technology to solve major healthcare challenges over the coming decades. Before that she worked on the Obama ’12, Khanna ’14, and Clinton ’16 campaigns. Additionally, she has worked at various tech companies and at the University of Chicago’s Innovation Fund. As a Bay Area native, she is passionate about solving inequity and affordable housing issues impacting the area.
These experts from across the housing policy spectrum advise our work in this area.
Brian Hanlon is the Executive Director of California YIMBY, a statewide advocacy organization that works to make housing more affordable and accessible. Mr. Hanlon co-founded the California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund and continues to serve on its Board of Directors. He holds masters degrees in public policy and history.
Carol Galante is the I. Donald Terner Distinguished Professor in Affordable Housing and Urban Policy and the Faculty Director of the Terner Center for Housing Innovation. She also co-chairs the Policy Advisory Board of the Fisher Center of Real Estate and Urban Economics.
As Faculty Director for the Terner Center, Galante oversees the Center’s work and co-leads the Center’s research agenda, supervising projects that identify, develop and advance innovative solutions in local, state and federal housing policy and practice. In her role as I. Donald Terner Distinguished Professor in Affordable Housing and Urban Policy, Professor Galante teaches graduate courses on housing policy and community development, including a semester-long studio intensive course on the design and finance of affordable housing development.
Prior to coming to UC Berkeley, Galante served in the Obama Administration for over five years as the Assistant Secretary for Housing/Federal Housing Commissioner at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Multifamily Housing programs.
Galante holds a Master of City Planning from U.C. Berkeley, and a Bachelor of Arts from Ohio Wesleyan.