A New Era for Affordable Housing
Bay Area residents, please take a moment to imagine a region with an abundance of affordable housing and where no one is homeless. Imagine a government that is responsive and well-resourced. Imagine a home community you are proud of, reflecting our values of inclusion and belonging, cultural diversity, and racial and economic equity and opportunity.
If this is a hard vision to picture, you’re not alone. The recent Bay Area News Group and Joint Venture Silicon Valley poll demonstrated a sense of “doom and gloom” and “generalized angst.” Bay Area residents view cost of housing, cost of living, and homelessness as the most serious issues facing our communities and doubt that improvements will come. 62% said the Bay Area is on the “wrong track,” and nearly three-quarters of respondents said quality of life in the Bay Area has worsened during the last five years.
And yet, there is reason for hope. California Assembly Bill 2011 — the breakthrough housing production bill authored by Assemblymember Buffy Wicks — was recently signed by Governor Newsom and offers decisive progress for our communities.
AB 2011 is proof that compromise is possible and necessary. It demonstrates how we can come together and break through the gridlock that has stalled housing production legislation for the past several years, in service of a greater vision. Advocates, unions, and lawmakers brokered a deal that creates more affordable housing and strengthens construction workers’ wages and rights. The New York Times called it “an elegant effort to address a complex crisis” for its exciting ability to advance affordable housing solutions, strengthen middle-class economic opportunities, and build our communities into the vibrant ones we deserve.
AB 2011 strengthens our communities for all who live and work here. First: This bill reduces timelines and costs by streamlining the process to build housing in neighborhoods currently zoned for commercial and office development. That opens 108,000 acres of livable space currently occupied by neglected strip malls, sprawling parking lots, abandoned office corridors, and other qualified commercially-zoned areas. In other words, we can now convert concrete ghostlands into badly-needed affordable homes.
Second: the bill strengthens middle-income jobs and employment standards. Developers invoking AB 2011’s streamlined process will be responsible for paying construction workers union-level wages, also known as “prevailing wages.” For larger developments, contractors will participate in apprenticeship programs, offering access to union training, workforce development, and health care coverage.
That’s how it works. Equally important is why it works. AB 2011 unites once divided interests through a shared vision for stronger and more equitable communities. It offers a roadmap to pair more affordable housing solutions with wage equity in the construction sector. On one hand, that means advancing our housing and workforce development goals; and on the other, it allows us to start restoring the public’s confidence in our government’s ability to do hard things.
AB 2011 should help residents envision a Bay Area they believe in once more. Californians will begin to see and feel the impact of this bill in our communities — better jobs, flourishing neighborhoods, and newly housed neighbors. And we can continue to build on the momentum AB 2011 brings us. In fact, it makes the case for even stronger solutions and bolder progressive partnerships for change ahead.
We invite you to join us in believing in the possibilities of housing justice and our ability to shape the direction we take our region. We’ll need everyone with us to take advantage of the opportunity this deal represents, seed vital changes, and build capacity and resources for our government to lead on this issue so critical to all of us.
Learn more at www.nonprofithousing.org