We are thrilled to release our newest platform: ClimatePlan’s Commitment to Investment without Displacement. A broad base of ClimatePlan partners worked together to develop a shared goal and set of nine principles to help ensure that investment benefits residents—especially renters, low-income people of color, and other vulnerable populations—and does not displace them.
How to solve California’s housing crisis
California needs more housing. Investments to build new housing and preserve existing homes can help Californians stay in their neighborhoods or move closer to their jobs or family. In particular, investments need to be focused on building more affordable homes located near jobs and high-quality transit. When it’s easier to get to work and school without a car, Californians spend less time stuck in traffic and more time with their families, the air is cleaner and carbon emissions are reduced.
Solutions to California’s housing crisis can result in displacement
However, without careful planning and policy, the solutions above—intended to address California’s housing crisis—could harm communities, especially disadvantaged communities and communities of color. New investment in some neighborhoods and continued disinvestment in others can cause changes that directly or indirectly force people to move. These changes can include everything from demolition of buildings to exorbitant rent increases.
Historically, patterns of investment and disinvestment have marginalized renters, low-income people of color, and other vulnerable populations; redlining, racial covenants, and suburban “white flight” in the 1950s-60s are all well-known examples. Without a concerted effort to tackle this pattern, today’s solutions to California’s housing crisis will do the same. In fact, a recent report on the Bay Area from UC Berkeley and California Housing Partnership found that rising housing costs disproportionately harm households of color, regardless of income. In addition, due to rising housing costs, low-income households of color are moving to segregated neighborhoods of concentrated poverty.
Displacement contributes to climate change
Displacement also harms the environment. As people get pushed out of their homes, they move farther from their jobs and transit. They are forced to drive longer distances and contribute to the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in California and the country—transportation. It also adds pressure to build on farmland and open space on the outskirts of town. In addition, the new, higher income residents moving into the urban areas are much less likely to ride transit. Therefore, the Californians moving closer to transit don’t actually use it as much as the Californians they displaced, and they too contribute to transportation emissions.
How does ClimatePlan fit in?
For more than ten years, ClimatePlan has been at the forefront to build a movement across issues and geographies to make a healthier, more equitable and sustainable California. Displacement threatens to undermine all of our collective work on climate, equity, health, active transportation, housing, conservation; it’s a central challenge to our mission. The Commitment to Investment without Displacement platform reflects a year of focused dialogue and education with a diverse set of ClimatePlan partners.
At ClimatePlan, some of our partners are experts in anti-displacement policy; they’re leading the work at the state level and in communities to solve the housing crisis and protect residents from displacement. Other partners are just beginning to learn about the harms of displacement and how to prevent it. We believe there’s a unique opportunity for ClimatePlan to build upon our partners’ expertise to:
- Help strengthen relationships across issue areas and increase understanding of displacement; and
- Advance aspirational policies that address how investments should be directed, protect the environment, and reduce climate emissions.
With this in mind, we developed the following recommendations to guide the network.
- All renters should be protected from excessive rent increases through local, regional, and/or statewide rent stabilization.
- Market-rate housing developers should not receive a public incentive (such as streamlining, reduced parking requirements, reduced open space requirements, etc.) for housing development that displaces existing households or demolishes homes occupied by or affordable to lower-income tenants. The state should not displace existing households or demolish them.
However, exceptions should be considered where:
- New development results in a significant increase in the number of homes affordable to lower-income renters, and
- Existing residents are fairly relocated at the developer's cost to comparable housing in near proximity and given the right to return to the new development in comparable units at their original rent level.
- All renters should be protected from unwarranted eviction through a statewide “Just Cause” law. The Ellis Act, which allows landlords to evict residential tenants under the premise of “getting out of the rental business,” must also be reformed.
- The state needs to significantly increase state funding to preserve existing homes affordable to very low income Californians and build new homes they can afford.
- Any residential developer who takes advantage of public incentives that increase a property's value or decrease development costs must use a portion of that financial windfall to benefit the community by including extremely and very low-income affordable homes in the new development.
- Major public investments should provide capacity-building and technical assistance for local community-based nonprofit organizations and institutions, so they can compete for contracts or grants related to the investment.
- Major public investments should also provide assistance to local and disadvantaged residents in the form of career development, apprenticeship, and employment opportunities in both construction and any permanent jobs created by the investment.
- All major investments should include meaningful community participation in every aspect of project design.
- All new multifamily housing of 10 units or more developed near transit or benefitting from other public resources should include extremely and very low-income affordable homes, on site or off site in near proximity.
These recommendations apply to all kinds of policy, including:
- The new development project being proposed down the street from you,
- Changes to the zoning code that your City Council is considering, and
- The statewide strategies that California’s Legislature has been developing.
At ClimatePlan, we are committed to advancing the recommendations in this platform. We plan to work with partners to share them with key decision-makers in the Legislature as well as state agencies like California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), Strategic Growth Council, and others. We will also use this platform to shape our work at the regional level, especially as cities like Modesto and Sacramento update their General Plans. And, we have already heard from partners who are using the platform as a benchmark by which to compare their policy decisions relative to best known policies on displacement.
As network partners start to use the Commitment to Investment without Displacement platform to influence policy, we look forward to the continued dialogue and education. Let us know how you use them!
And, if you too are in support, send us your logo. We would love to have your support and involvement!