Seg­re­gated by a hous­ing cri­sis

San Francisco Chronicle - - OPINION -

The Bay Area’s hous­ing cri­sis isn’t just strain­ing res­i­dents’ wal­lets. Ac­cord­ing to a new study from UC Berke­ley and the Cal­i­for­nia Hous­ing Part­ner­ship, it’s re­seg­re­gat­ing cities, dis­plac­ing mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties and ex­ac­er­bat­ing his­tor­i­cal pat­terns of racial and eth­nic in­equal­ity.

The re­searchers found that com­mu­ni­ties of color are par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble to rapid in­creases in rental and hous­ing prices. Since the Bay Area has ex­pe­ri­enced con­sis­tent, dra­matic spikes in the cost of hous­ing since the end of the Great Re­ces­sion, it fol­lows that these com­mu­ni­ties have been hit the hard­est by the hous­ing cri­sis.

But the study lays out a star­tling por­trait of how high the costs have been for these com­mu­ni­ties — and how quickly they’ve trans­formed the Bay Area.

“A 30 per­cent tract-level in­crease in me­dian rent (in­fla­tion-ad­justed)

was as­so­ci­ated with a 28 per­cent de­crease in low-in­come house­holds of color,” wrote Philip Verma, Dan Rin­zler, Eli Ka­plan and Miriam Zuk, the re­port’s au­thors.

This re­port, cov­er­ing most of the Bay Area from 2000 to 2015, builds on a study the same au­thors re­leased last fall ex­am­in­ing the coun­ties of San Fran­cisco, Alameda and Contra Costa.

With af­flu­ent white res­i­dents in­creas­ingly at­tracted to life in the Bay Area’s ur­ban core, lower-in­come African Amer­i­cans, Lati­nos and Asians are in­creas­ingly clus­ter­ing on the fringes of the Bay Area.

Ex­ur­ban out­posts are par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult for these com­mu­ni­ties. They typ­i­cally have fewer so­cial ser­vices to com­bat poverty and its re­lated ills. They also tend to have far less tran­sit in­fra­struc­ture than cities do, iso­lat­ing res­i­dents from ed­u­ca­tional and work op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Densely built cities don’t just pro­vide more op­por­tu­ni­ties to im­prove one’s ed­u­ca­tional and work his­tory — they also make it eas­ier to cre­ate and main­tain sup­port net­works for hard times. There’s even ev­i­dence that they im­prove lower-in­come peo­ples’ life ex­pectan­cies.

A re­gion that only works for a se­lect few means that ev­ery­one pays, whether it’s in the form of traf­fic con­ges­tion or so­cial co­he­sion.

Com­bat­ting these trends will re­quire a mul­ti­fac­eted ap­proach.

State and re­gional pol­i­cy­mak­ers have a big role to play.

First and fore­most, they must pass and en­force leg­is­la­tion that in­creases hous­ing pro­duc­tion, es­pe­cially for lower-in­come res­i­dents, in the state’s hard-to-build cities. They must also ex­plore ways to cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties for newly ar­rived com­mu­ni­ties in far-flung dis­tricts. Fi­nally, they must find ways to shore up the re­gion’s new CASA com­pact against lo­cal re­sis­tance.

At the lo­cal level, cities should con­sider part­ner­ing with sub­ur­ban dis­tricts on tran­sit and ed­u­ca­tional plan­ning in sup­port of lower-in­come res­i­dents. If cri­sis can push some res­i­dents away, lead­ers must guide op­por­tu­ni­ties back in their di­rec­tion.

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