As the state continues its climb out of the recession housing affordability around the state is once again moving front and center. While much of the media’s attention is focused solely on the cost of housing there is much more at stake. For middle and low-income families, affordable housing options accessible to transportation choices, jobs, education, and other services and amenities are critical for their economic well-being and health as well as that of our regions and state as a whole.
As California’s regions invest in expanding transit systems and building walkable communities it is critical that housing in these areas is affordable to a diverse set of incomes. On average low and middle income residents ride transit at significantly higher rates than those at the higher end of the scale. In other words, in order to maximize carbon and air quality emissions reductions affordable homes in existing and future transit rich areas are critical. At the same time, the true measure of affordability is not the cost of housing alone but instead the combination of housing and transportation costs.
The most glaring example we are currently seeing is from San Francisco where there is a growing backlash against Silicon Valley “techies” that are driving soaring housing costs that are pricing out middle and low-income families. In our own backyard, rapidly rising housing prices in Silicon Beach are making news for the same reason. Of course housing prices in much of the Los Angeles and San Francisco metro regions have been out of reach for a large proportion of working families for a long time. The important lesson for us is that in order for us to achieve our emission reduction and economic goals we must invest in transit and affordable homes in an integrated, strategic manner. The result will be less sprawl, healthier communities, and enhanced economic opportunities for all and competitiveness for our regions.