In summary

More affordable housing would give more people more choice about where to live.

By Eric Payne, Special to CalMatters

Eric Payne is executive director of the Central Valley Urban Institute and chair of the Fresno Anti-Displacement Task Force, Eric.s.payne@icloud.com.

Misperceptions about proposed land use reforms in Senate Bill 9 — which would make it legal to build duplexes in California — paint an entirely inaccurate picture of developers rushing into middle- and working-class communities of color to tear down homes and build expensive apartments in their place. To the contrary, the bill is designed to allow people of color to move to existing high-opportunity neighborhoods by making them more affordable and accessible and to enable new generations to stay in existing neighborhoods by creating more affordable new homeownership opportunities. SB 9 helps restore the core of what decades of segregation through bans on housing has taken away: the right to choose where you can live

Redlining is a California-born and -bred problem. Decades of segregation continue to play out in cities throughout the state. It’s time to build a more inclusive California, one where middle-income families can buy a home that doesn’t cost $750,000 (the state’s median home price); where families can find lower-priced housing in neighborhoods with good schools, convenient transit and parks; and where people have the option to buy a home in the neighborhood where they grew up. 

The argument that allowing for lower-cost homes will force Black families out and lead to gentrification isn’t true. SB 9 would protect renters from displacement by prohibiting the disruption of existing affordable housing, rent-controlled housing or housing recently leased to a tenant. It also would expand opportunities for multigenerational housing by allowing homeowners to build a modest unit on their property so an aging parent or adult child can continue to live there affordably, and the family can continue to pass on financial security and equity in their home. This is particularly important in Black neighborhoods such as southwest Fresno, where I was raised and where my family continues to live. Here, and in the few neighborhoods like it throughout California where Black families were historically allowed to buy property, homes have been passed down to children and grandchildren and families remain close. Maintaining this dynamic is key to preserving neighborhoods that have strong cultural and community ties. 

Fresno’s Anti-Displacement Task Force last week released a blueprint to address displacement issues that can serve as a guide for other cities. Among the key recommendations in Here to Stay: a community land trust fiscal contribution to be established on an annual basis to create affordable housing that remains affordable; a mandatory impact area notification system to notify all residents located in areas most likely to be affected by a proposed development project; rent stabilization, conversion restrictions, and an ”affordable in perpetuity” designation to achieve long-term housing stability; eviction right-to-counsel; and the establishment of tax increment financing to pay for implementation of anti-displacement policies and programs. 

By creating up to 800,000 new, smaller, lower-cost homes that fit within existing neighborhoods of all types, SB 9 would make it possible for more families to afford to own homes in the neighborhoods they chose (including those where they currently live) and for more lower- and middle-income families to be able to live in well-resourced neighborhoods. It also would protect current renters from displacement. 

By urging legislators to support SB 9, we can simultaneously unlock the door to homeownership for more Californians while respecting and protecting the intrinsic value of established communities of color. All Californians should have an equal chance to seek out the best opportunities for their families and children, as well as an opportunity to build wealth. Let’s not allow misinformation to keep us tied to housing policy that is rooted in and that perpetuates racial inequity and limited opportunity. 

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