December 18, 2018

Bold Regional Housing Leadership in New York City: Bay Area Delegation Learning Session

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It is obvious that bold action is required to solve the Bay Area’s worsening housing and displacement crisis, yet it has not always been so clear what systems are needed. Our Northern California office has been hard at work with the Committee to House the Bay Area (CASA) to determine the structure, functions, and funding for a regional housing entity that will protect, preserve and produce well-designed affordable homes in the Bay Area. 

On December 6 and 7, Enterprise, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and The San Francisco Foundation (TSFF) co-hosted a learning session of New York’s housing funding and finance system for Bay Area housing leaders including mayors, MTC/ABAG commissioners, state elected officials and executive staff of non-profit and philanthropic organizations. Led by Enterprise’s team, Heather Hood and Geeta Rao, the trip included panels, deep dives and many interactive discussions that explored New York’s housing funding and finance structures and their applicability to the Bay Area. 

The tour kicked off Thursday morning with a keynote conversation between Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and New York Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen about how to advance Housing New York 2.0. They discussed New York City housing strategies and systems from plan to execution on achieving ambitious housing outcomes and balancing neighborhood growth. 

As the day progressed, panelists provided in-depth analyses of their roles in the New York housing system. We learned that housing delivery is possible because of sophisticated public-private partnerships and entities that follow through on ambitious housing goals and utilize tools such as billions in funding that is a part of the city’s capital budget, property tax exemptions, neighborhood capital improvements and as-of-right zoning, to name a few. 

For example, New York Housing Development Corporation’s assets include approximately $13 billion and in 2017 activated more than 13,000 new and preserved affordable homes. Tenant protections and right to counsel have emerged as successful anti-displacement strategies, yet most agree these tools should have been instituted along with development and targeted to specific neighborhoods earlier. 

Multiple perspectives emerged from panels and panelists, including:

  • Opening Panel and Discussion: Housing New York
    • Ingrid Gould Ellen, New York University Furman Center
    • Rachel Fee, New York Housing Conference
    • Maria Torres-Springer, New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development
    • Michelle de la Uz, Fifth Avenue Committee and Planning Commission
  • Deep Dive Workshop: Funding and Financing Housing Preservation and Production 
    • Judi Kende, Enterprise Community Partners
    • Richard Froehlich, New York City Housing Development Corporation 
    • Kirk Goodrich, Monadnock Development
    • Molly Park, New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development
    • Anthony Richardson, New York City Housing Development Corporation
  • Panel: Protecting People in Place 
    • Joan Byron, Neighborhoods First Fund
    • Lucy Block, Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development
    • Randy Dillard, Right to Counsel NYC Coalition 
    • Moses Gates, Regional Planning Association    
    • Councilmember Antonio Reynoso, New York City Council
  • The Housing Transportation Connection
    • Michael Replogle, New York City Department of Transportation
    • Carolyn Grossman Meagher, New York City Department of City Planning 

Perhaps more important than the learning component were the opportunities for the group to talk through complex issues regarding the Bay Area’s envisioned  regional housing entity and ways to finance solutions. 

Following Thursday’s session focused on New York speakers, Friday was almost entirely dedicated to a long conversation facilitated by California’s District 17 Assembly Member David Chiu and Heather Hood where the delegation reflected on the lessons learned in New York and how to advance the bold regional housing agenda. 

Key Topics That Emerged From the Learning Session

  • "We don’t have time to wait. We need to deliver solutions immediately.” Creating a regional housing entity will be a long process that becomes more efficient and effective over time. In any case, bold action is required now to determine its roles and put in motion a process that will allow the entity to grow and develop. 
  • “If you don’t know what exactly you’re fixing, you don’t know what specific tools to use.” Accurate and transparent data is absolutely necessary to effectively address the housing needs of the very different cities that make up the Bay Area. 
  • “They don’t get stuck in their own mud.” New York faces a lot the same issues that the Bay Area does. However, they still have impressive scope and ability to build housing. 
  • “We have to get better at listening and responding.” There needs to be tailored outreach for each of the region’s cities and growing communities and discussion around ways a regional housing entity could best serve local government and constituents.
  • “[The money] needs to be simpler to find and use.” A lot more money is needed to fund housing preservation and production. 
  • “They are waiting for you in Sacramento.” The Bay Area must count on a pro-growth political constituency. 

The learning session began with a walking tour of Chinatown first led by Thomas Yu of Asian Americans for Equality and then by Ron Moelis of L&M Development. Walking through the streets and popping into select buildings, the 20 or so remaining participants learned about how to ensure racial and economic inclusion in a hot market. 

It Doesn’t End in New York. 

The learning session was merely a conversation starter that built shared understanding of the roles structures and resources needed to launch and sustain an effective regional housing funding and finance program in the Bay Area. The idea was for CASA participants to get more inspired than ever to take bold actions to create a bold regional housing agenda for the Bay Area. 

It seems to have worked.

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