In a piece for The Washington Post’s Wonkblog, Emily Badger details a story of a town in California, which is instructive to organizations working to provide affordable housing across the country.
Brisbane, California, a town outside of San Francisco, has a chance to make a big change to relieve the area’s housing crisis. A local developer would like to use a former industrial land plot to build a mixed-use project, including public parkland and over 4,000 housing units. The location is also adjacent to a regional rail line that would make commuting easier for workers with jobs in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. One of the benefits of building on this currently unused space is that construction would not displace any current residents or negatively impact local traffic. However, some Brisbane officials and residents are resistant to this development for reasons that are all too familiar to affordable housing developers.
This situation reflects the realities of housing policy decisions across the country. Housing policies are generally set at the local level, which in turn provides a great deal of weight to the desires of local residents. HAC has long felt that the solutions to affordable housing start at the local level, and building local capacity should be a priority in any community development effort. In her piece, Badger argues that communities should be more inclusive in how they define “local.” Badger believes that decision making on a community level should also include commuters who spend their days in town, working, going to school, or spending money, but don’t technically live there. This would create a more inclusive community where all of the stakeholders have a say in local policy. However, she submits that local control of housing policy is a tradition that is unlikely to change in American communities.