Affordable Housing Month: How Can We Tackle the Climate Crisis by Addressing the Housing Crisis?

Housing may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Save The Bay, but how we plan and build housing in the Bay Area is critically important to how we protect and restore the Bay and prepare our region for the growing impacts of climate change.

The San Francisco Bay has long attracted people looking to enjoy its beautiful setting and economic opportunities. Unfortunately, the way that our communities have developed has been inconsistent, inequitable, and unsustainable largely due to exclusionary zoning practices that have contributed to the current housing crises.

The effects of these practices have been detrimental. First, it’s important to recognize that the Bay Area’s housing crisis is not felt equally. Historic injustices have disadvantaged communities of color and low-income individuals, preventing equal access to homeownership that has created wealth for so many in the Bay Area. Also, those same communities are more vulnerable to displacement, which for far too many has fueled the growing population of unhoused people living on streets, in RVs, and in parks and public places.

On the environmental side, housing sprawl has forced people to live further from where they work, clogging freeways with cars that contribute to the greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change. Pollution from our cars flows into the Bay when it rains and is a leading cause of pollution in the Bay. The Bay is also increasingly impacted by waste and trash from homeless encampments due to the lack of services available to them. Sprawling development also destroys open space and increasingly puts homes in the path of climate risks like wildfires and flooding from sea level rise.

To address these challenges requires a change in how we build housing. That’s why Save The Bay advocates for affordable housing located near transit. Doing so reduces commutes and gets people out of cars. We also work to ensure that housing isn’t built in places where we know flooding is likely to occur as sea levels rise, and advocate for green spaces within cities to promote climate resilience and livability of urban spaces.

Recently, Save The Bay’s Political Director, Allison Chan, joined partners at Greenbelt Alliance, YIMBY, and the Nonprofit Housing Association of Northern California to discuss how the housing and climate crises are related, and how we can align advocacy to make our communities more resilient, equitable, and sustainable.

You can watch the conversation, which is part of Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo’s Affordable Housing Month. Check out their website for more events throughout May to learn how you can be a better housing and climate advocate.