Given a suite of policy suggestions to help ease housing crisis, the Petaluma City Council was reluctant to embrace a regional strategy to confronting the problem this week, and instead opted for a more methodical approach with numerous bills that could alter regulations already working their way through the state legislature.
The council held a workshop Monday to discuss the CASA Compact, a 15-year emergency policy guide from the Committee to House the Bay Area that’s intended to help officials audit their development practices, and accelerate relief on an issue that is actively undercutting the economic sustainability of the region.
The compact has been met with a myriad of reactions since it was released in January, with many municipalities like Petaluma wary of the proposed $1.5 billion regional funding mechanism, or surrendering aspects of control that local officials believe is essential for smart development.
With the new council’s April 6 goal-setting session looming and housing expected to be a key topic, Petaluma’s elected officials spent Monday’s workshop engaged in a discussion that’s quickly gone statewide under the new administration.
“It’s important for us to get out there and make our voice heard in the process,” said Councilman Gabe Kearney. “I’m in favor of looking at it when we have more of the bills in front of us and can do more research before taking a stance, and can go from there.”
A snapshot of the crisis was provided by Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt, one of Monday’s presenters. Rohnert Park Councilman Jake Mackenzie also helped present a compact that has been so controversial that his own city council stripped him of longtime posts on major transportation boards because he backed it.
Since 2010, approximately 722,000 jobs have been added across the region’s nine counties while only 106,000 housing units were built, according to figures from CASA.
A recent report from the California Association of Realtors found that 77 percent of Sonoma County households did not earn the minimum annual income of $138,760 to purchase a median-priced home of $640,000. One in four renters in the county devote at least 50 percent of their income to rent.
“There’s a bit of blame to go all around in terms of how we got to the place we’re at,” said Rabbitt, who serves as the chair of the Association of Bay Area Governments, and is a commissioner of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the two agencies that assembled CASA.
“But the place we’re at is not working very well, and we know what the consequences of the status quo is – that prices continue to go up and we price more people out of the market. Our own kids can’t live where they grew up, and that’s a problem.”
The compact was the product of 18 months of collaboration between elected officials, housing representatives, equity advocates and leaders from business, labor and environmental protection agencies.
The 10 elements in the package were whittled down from dozens that were first put forward, and were established on a voting gradient that allowed the compact to be a consensus document, Rabbitt said. Although, he admitted throughout the workshop that there was much that he disagreed with.
By design, the compact is ambitious. To put the policies into action, it calls for a buy-in from cities across the region, and a complex revenue-sharing agreement that would include ballot measures in 2020 and beyond.
Elements of the CASA Compact
Element 1: Just cause eviction policy
Element 2: Rent cap
Element 3: Rent assistance and access to legal counsel
Element 4: Remove regulatory barriers to accessory dwelling units
Element 5: Minimum zoning near transit
Element 6: Good governance reforms to housing approval process
Element 7: Expedited approvals and financial incentives for select housing
Element 8: Unlock public land for affordable housing
Element 9: Funding and financing the CASA Compact
Element 10: Regional housing enterprise