September 21, 2017 Financial Health ·

Tough Problems Require Getting Tough On Solutions

The Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California Brings Forward A New Approach to Drive Solutions for Housing and Transportation Together

As home to six of the nation’s ten most expensive counties, the San Francisco Bay Area is facing what many call a “housing catastrophe.” A severe shortage of homes affordable to most of the workforce that sustains the region’s roaring economy has resulted in mega commutes and the displacement of tens of thousands of residents. Yet, while the San Francisco Bay Area has long been known for its housing crisis, the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California (NPH) is now making sure the region is gaining recognition for its housing solutions as well.

On the heels of NPH’s three successful County-wide affordable housing revenue measures on the November 2016 ballot, the organization this year released a new report focusing on a holistic regional planning approach by calling for aggressive solutions through closer ties between transportation investment and affordable housing. “On Track Together” centers on three principles, known as the “three Ps,” to promote growth inclusive of all people regardless of income level:

  • Production of affordable homes,
  • Preservation of existing affordability, and
  • Protection of tenants.

A Holistic Planning Approach: Housing and Transportation Together

The report identified specific solutions to support these three “Ps” through expanding proven, successful models and by developing new innovative solutions, including:

  • Calling for the region’s transportation and planning agencies to create a regional affordable housing funding plan,
  • Weaving housing considerations into every new transportation investment — including direct investment into affordable housing (such as using bridge tolls to build affordable housing in transit-oriented locations,)
  • Tying the provision of transportation funding to local compliance with state housing laws and local adoption of tenant protections, and
  • Incentivizing the use of public land near transit for the construction of new affordable homes.

With strong research and well-developed successful models, the report paved a path to bring these  good policies to light and, along with allies like the Six Wins Network for Social Equity and Greenbelt Alliance, secured significant commitments from the Bay Area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), to develop a regional affordable housing revenue plan and use hundreds of millions of dollars of regional transportation funds to incentivize cities to create and preserve more affordable homes as well as protect renters and residents.

Bringing The Approach To Your Community

When we build communities with housing options affordable to people of lower income levels we all benefit through less congested roads, better air quality, and better health and educational outcomes for children and adults alike.

As funding for affordable housing is perennially scarce, other communities should ask themselves how they can use existing investments to achieve multiple goals. As in the San Francisco metro area, we believe that many urban centers have opportunities to explore the holistic approach to housing and transportation and encourage renters, advocates, and community leaders to use the “3 Ps” to guide affordable housing policy and funding opportunities with each new transportation investment.

Some ideas to consider

Examining existing successful case studies helps bring forward proposals and develop the political will to support them. Some ideas to consider from NPH’s report include:

  • Production of new affordable homes can be promoted by conditioning transportation funding to having the appropriate zoning and sites for affordable homes,
  • Preservation of existing affordability can be achieved by providing additional transportation funds to places that acquire, rehab, and preserve the affordability of existing buildings,
  • Renter protections can similarly be promoted through prioritizing transportation investment to places that have adopted anti-displacement policies.

Through being intentionally inclusive from early in the planning process, communities will be making a downpayment to ensure that they are vibrant, sustainable, and affordable for years to come.

What You can Do Now

Learn more about the “On Track Together” report at Questions about how to bring these recommendations to your own community? Email

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Contributed by: Pedro Galvao, NPH Regional Planning and Policy Manager

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