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First-Of-Its-Kind Bay Area Affordable Housing Bond Set For November Ballot

The Bay Area Housing Finance Authority unanimously approved a resolution to place a multibillion-dollar affordable housing bond on the Nov. 5 ballot, a first-of-its-kind regional approach to creating more affordable housing.

If approved, BAHFA would issue $20B in general obligation bonds to finance the development and preservation of between 70,000 and 90,000 affordable units in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, Sonoma and San Francisco counties.

At least 70,00 units of affordable housing would be created or preserved in the Bay Area.

The measure was lauded by the affordable housing community for its coordinated regional approach to solving the Bay Area’s housing crisis.

MidPen Housing Corp. Vice President of Policy and Advocacy Nevada Merriman called it a “momentous occasion” for the Bay Area.

“This regional housing authority is the first of its kind to look at affordable housing at this scale,” she told Bisnow. “All nine [counties] are working together.”

The proposed bond measure calls for 80% of the funds to go to those counties, as well as the cities of San Jose, Oakland, Santa Rosa and Napa, which represent 30% of their county's low-income housing need. The remaining 20% of funds would establish a new program to construct and preserve projects for the region's lowest-income and most vulnerable populations. 

San Francisco and Santa Clara counties would receive the most funding, about $2.4B each, if the measure passes. 

Bond financing from taxpayers could spark the development of 433 affordable housing projects, or nearly 41,100 homes, according to Baltimore-based nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners. That’s the pipeline of properties in various predevelopment stages, which require $9.7B in soft subsidy or gap funding to come to fruition. 

Most affordable housing projects require several types of financing, including a mortgage, Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, tax-exempt bonds and other subsidies or gap funding to meet development and financing costs.

At the city and county level, there are no local subsidies left to move these projects forward, Merriman said.

“Having a regional source that can finance the pipeline that already exists is going to move development forward quickly,” she said. “It’s not going to be a trickle effect. It's going to be a big push forward.” 

Merriman credited the resolution’s passage to the work started by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in 2017 via the creation of the Committee to House the Bay Area.