homes, not walls

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An ill-advised attempt at humor by a Silicon Valley mayor brought a strong backlash from housing advocates this week and put a spotlight on the Bay Area’s housing crisis. Cupertino Mayor Steven Scharf in his state of the city address in January joked that the city should build a wall around its border to keep people out. Responding to a tweet about Scharf’s remarks, the Bay Area Council replied that “our housing crisis and the pain it is inflicting on thousands and thousands of Bay Area residents is no joke.”

The story went viral from there, attracting a swarm of national media coverage. Resistance to new housing in Cupertino has been strong over the years and come with painful consequences, as Bay Area Council Senior Vice President Matt Regan noted in an interview with The Guardian.

“Cupertino is a city that, for the longest time, has fought new housing construction,” Regan said. “They haven’t permitted a single permit for affordable housing in over three years. The city’s median home value right now is over $2.2 million. Median rent value right now is $3,200 a month. They essentially already have built a wall around their city by making it so unaffordable to live in and refusing to build more housing.”

Scharf’s remarks come just months after the city reluctantly approved a project by Bay Area Council member company Sand Hill Property Co. to build 2,400 homes and possibly more as part of a larger redevelopment of an old and largely defunct shopping mall. A state law (SB 35) by Sen. Scott Wiener designed to speed up approval of housing helped compel the city to accept the project. The Bay Area Council advocated for the project against stiff local opposition, including by an anti-growth group that endorsed Scharf in his election. That same group has said it may seek a local referendum against the project in a future election.

Regan told The Guardian that because of the lack of affordable housing in the Bay Area, more than 200,000 people a day are forced to commute long distances into job centers like Cupertino. “If you’re fortunate enough to own a home in Cupertino, lucky you,” Regan said. “But if you have to teach the children of Cupertino or work in the restaurants in Cupertino or clean the streets of Cupertino, you’re likely not owning a home in Cupertino.”

To help the Bay Area Council shape the future of housing, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

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