The CASA Compact: A Grand Bargain or No Bargain?
December 3, 2018
Can Bay Area leaders who represent diverse interests across the Bay develop a compact of actionable policy solutions to address the region’s housing crisis?
While housing is one of the most pressing issues facing communities across the Bay Area, the housing crisis is increasingly understood to be a multi-jurisdictional issue that requires policy solutions designed to be implemented at the state and regional levels.
The massive demand for housing is propelled by the Bay Area’s historical and forecasted job growth. An estimated 2.4 million more people and 1.3 million additional jobs will be added to the Bay Area by the year 2040. Yet only a fraction – less than 30% in 2017 – of needed housing is being produced each year, with roadblocks rooted in escalating development costs and decades of restrictive land use policies accompanied by limited political consensus as to the best policies to ease the growing crisis. 
In June of 2017, following the release of the draft Plan Bay Area 2040, MTC and ABAG convened CASA, the Committee to House the Bay Area, to develop a set of concrete recommendations to solve the Bay Area’s housing crisis.
What makes CASA so unique – and armed with real potential to break through the crisis – is its ability to convene the region’s most influential leaders from the public, private, non-profit, labor, and philanthropic sectors to hammer out mutually agreeable policy actions.
Co-Chaired by Fred Blackwell of the San Francisco Foundation, Leslye Corsiglia of [email protected] and Michael Covarrubias of TMG Partners, CASA members include the Mayors of San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose, and prominent figures from the development community, including Kofi Bonner of FivePoint, Jonathan Fearn of Greystar, Matt Franklin of MidPen Housing, Mark Kroll of Sares Regis Group, Linda Mandolini of Eden Housing, Denise Pinkston of TMG Partners, and Bill Witte of Related California.
At its heart, CASA is a consensus-building project, bringing together leaders who are often at odds in conversations centered on housing and land use, to find actionable ways that the Bay Area can increase housing production, preserve existing affordable housing, and prevent further displacement of vulnerable populations.
The CASA task force wants the region to produce 35,000 housing units per year through 2040. 14,000 of these new units would be affordable to lower-income households and 7,000 for moderate-income households. It wants to preserve 30,000 affordable units — 28,000 market-rate affordable and 4,000 that are at-risk — in the next five years. The group also seeks to protect 300,000 lower-income units for residents who are classified as “extremely rent-burdened,” meaning they spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing.
Clearly, this is no small task.
While these recommendations are expected to be released in December 2018, the forthcoming CASA compact is expected by housing policy experts to provide a roadmap leading to tangible solutions at the regional and state levels.
Given the people and interests around the table, this compact is perhaps the region’s best hope for breaking out of what feels like a political deadlock, in which all parties will lose if nothing changes.
If CASA succeeds, then, beyond finding a relief valve to ease a historic housing crisis, we may also find ourselves equipped with a new model for regional collaboration that can help the Bay Area and the state tackle some of the daunting challenges on our horizon.
Interested in learning more? ULI SF will be hosting a panel discussion on the CASA Compact and what it could mean for the future of housing in the Bay Area on December 6th. This event is part of ULI San Francisco’s Housing the Bay initiative, in the lead up to the next full-day Housing the Bay Summit on May 10th, 2019.
By Nate Hanson