Soapbox

How affordable housing can help on climate change

Gov. Jerry Brown talks at a June 13 news conference about negotiations on a deal to extend cap and trade, California’s landmark program aimed at slowing global warming.
Gov. Jerry Brown talks at a June 13 news conference about negotiations on a deal to extend cap and trade, California’s landmark program aimed at slowing global warming. Associated Press

As Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders rush to get a cap-and-trade extension deal, one critical piece continues to get overlooked: Poor Californians who breathe dirty air and struggle to pay for gas.

Slashing pollution in disadvantaged communities was an essential part of Assembly Bill 32, which established the cap-and-trade system and the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. The state recognized that beyond regulating polluting industries, we needed to find ways to further reduce emissions. One important new solution is to build housing closer to job and transit centers, especially for lower income households who depend more on older vehicles and take public transit more frequently.

In 2014, the state created the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also reducing the shortage of 1.5 million affordable homes. Now, the governor and Legislature must not forget how critical this program is to Californians’ health and to meeting our state’s climate goals.

In two years, the program has funded 58 developments offering 4,500 high-quality, affordable homes for residents who are being pushed further and further out from job and transit centers by rapidly rising rents and home prices. For example, West Gateway Place in West Sacramento is providing affordable homes to 77 families. Over time, the 500,000 families who will live in these homes will save an average of $783 per month, while reducing 1.1 million metric tons of greenhouse gases.

With federal and state funding for affordable housing continuing to decline, this program is more critical than ever. Climate change policy is about saving the planet through making better choices. We will always come up short if we fail to include solutions for the people we wish to save.

Lisa Hershey is executive director of Housing California and can be contacted at lhershey@housingca.org. Matt Schwartz is president and CEO of the California Housing Partnership Corp. and can be contacted at mschwartz@chpc.net.

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