A new emergency plan designed to address the Sonoma County and regional housing crisis was the topic of the February 6, 2019 SCA general membership meeting. District 2 Supervisor David Rabbitt described the CASA Compact draft, also known as the Committee to House the Bay Area, containing 10 proposed elements to relieve the shortage.

“We have to develop new financial models, streamline processes, slash fees and invest in infrastructure if we are to ensure our quality of life and the intrinsic values that make Sonoma County our home — so this wonderful place to live, play and work is not compromised, but reinforced,” Supervisor Rabbitt said. This involves turning challenges into opportunities.”

He said maintain the status quo is not working, and that the reason we have a workforce shortage is because of the lack of housing. “We have a housing crisis which, if not overcome, will curtail economic growth.”

According to Rabbitt, Santa Rosa lost 5,300 homes representing five percent of the city’ total. At the same time, the cost of housing in California is two-and-a-half times the national average in a state that is the 5th largest world economy.

“Californians spend more of their income on housing that those living in anywhere else in the U.S. Some 200,000 residents commute daily to the Bay Area from the central valley where homes are less expensive, and 600,000 cross the Bay into San Francisco to work for the same reason.

He said from 2007 to 2014, the Bay Area’s nine counties and 101 cities only permitted 57 percent of the new homes needed to meet the demand caused by populations growth and to maintain a baseline level of affordability. Since the end of the Great Recession in 2010, the Bay Area added 122,000 jobs but only constructed 6,000 housing units.

The CASA Compact is a 15-year emergency policy package designed to confront the housing crisis in San Francisco and the Bay Area. convened by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTA) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), CASA is comprised of technical and steering committees made up of local elected officials, business, labor and non-profit housing officials. These officials report to three co-chairs including Fred Blackwell, CEO of the San Francisco Foundation; Leslye Corsiglia, Executive Director of SV@Home; Michael Covarrubias, Chair and CEO of TMG Partners. The technical group has 32 members and the steering committee has 18, for a total of 50.

After two years of public discussion and technical work, on September 27, 2018, MTA and ABAG adopted and released the final Plan Bay Area 2040 — an updated long-range Regional Transportation Plan and Sustainable Communities Strategy for the nine-county Bay Area.

“Despite failed efforts to repeal SB1, the freeways in Sonoma County are looking pretty good and are fully funded,” according to Rabbitt. He said transportation, housing and jobs are all linked. Plan Bay Area 2040 is a state mandated, long-range, integrated transportation and land use management plan to tie these two issues together.”

Rabbitt said SB 375 requires all California metropolitan regions to complete a Sustainable Community Strategy (SCS) as part of a regional transportation plan, “Or else they won’t receive any money.” In the Bay Area, MTA and ABAG are jointly responsible for developing and adopting an SCS that integrates transportation, land use and housing to meet Green House Gas (GHG) targets set by the California Air Resources Board.

Plan Bay Area 2040 estimates the region will see 2.4 million more people by this year, representing 820,000 new households and 1.3 million new jobs. Rabbitt said “We’re already on pace to beat this job projection – but housing still lags behind – especially affordable housing.”

He said regional agencies lack the tools, resources and authority to directly identify and address the issue of housing production, affordability and displacement. The action plan recommends pursuing more ambitious funding, legislation and policy solutions at the state, regional and local level, as well as strengthening and expanding existing regional housing initiatives.

This is why CASA was convened 18 months ago by MTA and ABAG with the formation of a Blue- Ribbon panel of elected and civic leaders along with experts in their fields with the experience needed to develop better solutions.

CASA is addressing three key issues: Housing production; preserving existing affordable housing and protecting vulnerable households from housing instability and displacement — with a goal of having inclusion everywhere. This includes creating a level playing field, having fair and uniform standards while also minimizing the administrative burden.