Like many of our neighboring communities in the Bay Area, Richmond faces a major challenge in our lack of affordable housing.
Based on data from the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), and Richmond’s own Housing Element of the General Plan, Richmond has a housing needs deficit of 1,543 units distributed among the very low, moderate, and above moderate income levels.
A healthy city requires sufficient housing at all income levels, but affordable housing is the most challenging.
Two years ago, I released my Mayor’s Housing Strategy, which established a vision for how to close the affordable housing gap, which impacts people at all income levels.
This is a moral crisis that I believe we have a responsibility to address and get right. In my first term, we approved or built more affordable housing units than we had in the previous decade. We took steps to increase Richmonders’ ability to afford housing by raising the minimum wage to $15/hour. We reduced unemployment to the lowest level in Richmond’s history. We are giving the next generation a shot at a better future by offering a college scholarship to every high school senior in Richmond. And our public housing program provides some 1,500 Section 8 vouchers and 1,000 units of public housing that is affordable for every tenant regardless of their income.
But we still have more work to do to ensure Richmond is an affordable city for all who wish to call it home.
Here’s my plan for what’s next in my second term as Mayor:
My Plan: A More Affordable, Equitable Richmond
In my next term as Mayor of Richmond, I will work closely with the City Council, community, and local businesses as we redouble our efforts to alleviate the housing crisis and broaden economic opportunity for all Richmond residents.
1. Keep People Housed
EXPANDING AND IMPROVING AFFORDABLE HOUSING
To effectively solve our housing crisis we must directly address the chronic housing shortages plaguing our city — and that means creating more housing while keeping Richmond affordable for lifelong residents.
Building on the successful efforts of my first term — nearly half of new units constructed over the last four years were affordable — we will continue to implement and will revise Richmond’s inclusionary zoning ordinances to raise millions for affordable housing, mandate a higher percentage of new developments that are rated affordable, and secure funding for new affordable housing projects by the City.
We will also promote accessory dwelling units and junior second accessory dwelling units. These small units attached to existing properties or built in backyards have the potential to more than double our stock of affordable housing and provide pathways out of homelessness while also providing a way for homeowners to generate modest income to allow them to stay in their own homes.
2. Pass Measure T This November
MAKING RICHMOND MORE VIBRANT AND LIVABLE
I authored Measure T, which will be on the ballot this November. It will clean up blighted, vacant properties and illegal dumping, and revitalize neighborhoods. Vacant properties undermine safety and neighborhood vitality and take up space that could otherwise be used for the construction of new, affordable and transit accessible housing.
Measure T will generate more than $5 million in revenue, which will be a major funding source for what’s to become Richmond’s Homelessness Fund. Measure T has the support of the entire City Council.
3. Explore Innovative New Solutions
With Richmond at the periphery of the tech capital of the world, it only makes sense that we tap into the sources of innovation around us to diversify our approach to housing. Together we can build housing for all, not just those at the top, in vibrant neighborhoods that foster community, and are walkable and near transit.
An example of this innovative approach are micro unit projects, which offer a new vision for affordable housing that can be built quickly, at low-cost, and sometimes on public land. I have been working with Contra Costa County to locate a 51-unit fully supported project in Richmond to house formerly homeless people in low cost “MicroPAD” units. The project is fully funded, and planning is underway.
We Can Do It
Too much of today’s debate around housing in the Bay Area falls along strictly NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) versus YIMBY (Yes In My Back Yard) lines. I want Richmond to grow while remaining a great place to live and preserving its distinct character and history. And I want to prevent our neighbors, many of them lifelong residents, from being priced out of their homes. I believe that we can do both.