Understanding the tools to fight displacement

Researchers found that about 70 percent of the region’s housing demand will not be met by the projected supply. (iStock photo)

Researchers found that about 70 percent of the region’s housing demand will not be met by the projected supply. (iStock photo)

Berkeley — How many Bay Area cities have rent control laws? Which cities cover renters with tenant protections? How can inclusionary housing policies be structured? Which cities are charging developers impact fees? These questions and more can be answered with an updated, easy-to-use interactive map of the region assembled by the University of California, Berkeley’s Urban Displacement Project.

The project team’s latest offering provides everyone from policymakers, analysts, advocates, tenants and homeowners with a comprehensive overview of which policies are – or are not – on the books in all 101 cities and nine counties in the region.

As the San Francisco Bay Area continues its march toward being a sprawling, exclusive and high-income community with less and less room for low-income residents — a process extensively documented by previous project work — cities are trying various strategies to mitigate displacement pressures.

“We get calls every week from cities struggling with these issues, asking us what they can do to address gentrification and displacement,” says Miriam Zuk, the Urban Displacement Project’s director, “Now we can show them the map so that they can see what their own cities and their neighbors are doing.”

The latest tool pulls together information on 14 key housing policies applied unevenly in 109 Bay Area jurisdictions, and presents them in one, easy-to-navigate map.

“The idea is that advocates, planners and others can learn about the range of policies available to address displacement, decide which ones make the most sense for their city, and then see who else around the bay has already tried that,” says Mitchell Crispell, a project researcher. “It’s peer pressure used for good — Fremont’s doing it, Oakland’s doing it — why not here?”

Key research findings include:

  • Only 11 cities have instituted more than half of the 14 policies studied. Some 53 percent of cities have three or fewer policies on their books.
  • Of the policies inventoried, only two — inclusionary housing (where developers have to rent or sell a portion of their development at a reduced price to low- or moderate-income residents, provide additional housing elsewhere or pay a fee in lieu of producing such housing) and condominium conversion regulations — were widespread; all the others were found in fewer than 40 percent of cities.
  • Inclusionary housing is found in 77 of 109 jurisdictions.
  • Some of the most important policies to address acute impacts of displacement, devices such as eviction protections and rent control, are found in seven cities.
  • Policies that promote the production of new affordable housing, like developer impact fees, seem to be working: Cities with these policies produced more housing for very low-income households than cities without.
  • In the six Bay Area cities with rent control laws on the books,there is less turnover in their renter populations, indicating that rent control can contribute to greater residential stability.

“We really see this as both informational and as a wake-up call — we aren’t doing enough to address our housing and displacement crisis,” says Zuk. “Our hope is that this can help us do more.”

These resources are the latest from the Urban Displacement Project, headed by Zuk and city and regional planning professor Karen Chapple,  as part of a two-year, community-engaged research project looking at gentrification and displacement, and involving dozens of local nonprofit organizations and regional agencies. 

The project is funded by the Bay Area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission and California’s Air Resources Board to determine the effect of transit and other public investments on displacement, and to search for ways to ensure future housing affordability.

Maps and reports are online at http://www.urbandisplacement.org/.