Council-Sponsored Reforms Tighten Screws on Cities to Produce Housing

It was supposed to be the blueprint for meeting the Bay Area’s housing needs. But it was barely worth the paper it was printed on. For years, the arcane process of allocating housing to the region’s 101 cities—fondly known by housing nerds as the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA)—badly underestimated the amount of housing needed, was often ignored or rejected by cities, and came with almost no enforcement mechanisms.

That’s all changing, in large part due to 2018 legislation (SB 828) authored by state Sen. Scott Weiner that the Bay Area Council proudly sponsored. The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), which is responsible for developing and implementing RHNA in the Bay Area, in December approved the latest version of the plan calling on cities across the region to make room for 441,000 new housing units by 2031. Prior to the Council’s reforms under SB 828, that number was a meager 188,000 units and far short of what we need to address a historic housing shortage and affordability crisis. We applaud ABAG for its work in developing the latest RHNA plan.

Along with other reforms the Council has supported that ensure cities can’t ignore or dismiss their RHNA obligations, we stand a good chance in the coming years of producing the housing that thousands and thousands of Bay Area residents need. But it will take vigilance and resolve to keep cities’ feet to the fire as the onus falls on them to identify where the housing will go. To engage in our housing policy work, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

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