Green Affordable Housing Package

On October 27th, 2015 Council passed my Green Affordable Housing Package. 

My goals for this proposal are twofold: to prioritize housing over underutilized parking spaces in new developments, and to streamline the multi-year bureaucratic process that affordable housing projects go through in Berkeley. While this is no silver bullet to solving the housing crisis, I do believe it’s an innovative way to find funding for affordable housing.

In fact, our proposal has been lauded by many experts in the areas of affordable housing, planning, and transportation fields, including Bike East Bay, TransForm, East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO), SF Bay Area Renters Federation, Livable Berkeley, Carol Galante (Terner Center for Housing Innovation, UC Berkeley), and Karen Chapple (UC Berkeley). 

Read the Proposal (it will download). You can also read about the proposal in this recent East Bay Express article

Read a 101 guide on how affordable housing is built in Berkeley here.

Why are you focusing on parking as a way to generate money? How does reducing parking requirements generate revenue?

One parking space costs anywhere from $35,000-$75,000 to build.[1] If we require developers to create those spaces, significantly less money is available for them to subsidize affordable units.

Alternatively, if we loosen the requirements around parking, developers might choose to pay a fee to waive the parking spaces (to go towards affordable housing). They could be incentivized to do so because instead building parking spaces, they could build additional units, which could increase building revenues.  

Does this policy require developers to build less parking?

No!! This policy simply removes outdated parking requirements. It offers flexibility to free up money for affordable housing. If there is a demand for parking in a neighborhood, this policy does not prevent a developer from providing parking.

Isn’t this impractical? People still drive!

This is not an ideological argument–I drive as well, although I’m trying to drive less. We have two major crises in our community that we need to act on–climate change and the housing crisis. We need to not only pursue policies that affect our community today but think about how that policy will affect the community in the following decades. The fact is that younger generations are driving less, our city is unaffordable, and our earth is getting warmer. We need to act today.

Where is the data that reducing parking requirements helps affordability?

There is an excessive amount research dedicated to this particular topic. It is not a small drop in the bucket. We could potentially secure millions of dollars for affordable housing if we adopt this proposal. Please refer to the multitude of studies in the Council item.

What other benefits are achieved through this type of policy? This policy will:

-          Reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This policy is consistent with our climate action plan and positively impacts public health.

-          Keep rental costs down. Data shows that parking spots raise rental prices[2], which is fine if a tenant drives and wants parking included in their rent. But, for a tenant without a car, it’s an unnecessary cost.

-          Add revenue for affordable housing. Developers can pay a fee to waive parking requirements and that money can go towards building affordable housing.

-          Prioritize additional housing units over parking spaces.

What does “streamlining” mean, exactly?       

All housing projects need to go through several commissions, reviews, etc. This proposal requests that staff explore how to expedite that process for 100% affordable housing projects. 

[1] “Reducing Housing Costs by Rethinking Parking Requirements” SPUR. 6.1.2006.

Goodman, Seth. “How Much Does One Parking Spot Add to Rent?” Reinventing Parking. 6.2.2015

[2] Goodman, Seth. “How Much Does One Parking Spot Add to Rent?” Reinventing Parking. 6.2.2015.