As the Bay Area housing crisis persists, innovative approaches and tools are needed to achieve a prosperous and competitive economy while preserving vibrant, sustainable communities connected by an efficient and well-maintained transportation network. But what else can a regional government do when affordable housing projects need extra help?
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) created a new revolving loan program—called the Transit-Oriented Affordable Housing (TOAH) Program—in 2008 with a $10 million investment. MTC worked with the Bay Area counties to find the most flexible funding sources at their disposal and then targeted the funds in locations near rail and bus lines that would improve access to existing transit.
Then, MTC’s initial investment attracted another $40 million for the program from private foundations and financial institutions—making a total of $50 million available for the program. By 2018, TOAH financing had kick-started nine projects in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Fremont, and Hayward that adds more than 900 affordable units to the region.
In 2017, TOAH 2 was relaunched to promote equitable transit-oriented development (eTOD) and offer a wider range of financing options and a streamlined underwriting process. The initiative now provides financing-related services connected to particular projects that can include community services, fresh food markets, and other neighborhood assets. But the requirement remains that all projects must be located in Priority Development Areas transit lines throughout the Bay Area.
TOAH 2 is co-sponsored by the Great Communities Collaborative and loans will be originated by a consortium of five community development financial institutions: the Low Income Investment Fund, Corporation for Supportive Housing, Enterprise Community Loan Fund, Local Initiatives Support Corporation and Community Vision (formerly Northern California Community Loan Fund).
The TOAH (now TOAH 2) program is an example of a highly collaborative public-private partnership to invest in improving local communities. Each of the partners is committed to increasing housing and services for low-income families and to building healthier, more sustainable neighborhoods.
High housing costs put a significant burden on families, with 31% of the Bay Area’s households paying more than 35% of income on housing in 2015. Supporting mixed-use developments that incorporate affordable housing and are located in close proximity to high-quality public transit can be a meaningful strategy to help working families save money and connect to job centers. In addition, a development that intentionally incorporates equity and sustainability into planning can help the region address persistent challenges such as racial and economic disparities and climate change. In a high-priced, highly competitive market like the Bay Area, it is critical for community developers to have access to capital that enables them to compete with the private sector. The new version of the TOAH Fund provides more nimble and flexible products and a streamlined underwriting process to help accelerate equitable transit-oriented development projects.
Bay Area Preservation Pilot
A financial twist to the TOAH program is the newer Bay Area Preservation Pilot (to BAPP). This program is administered through community development financial institutions (CDFI) Enterprise Community Loan Fund (ELCF) and the Low Income Investment Fund (LIIF). BAPP funds will be used to quickly acquire existing affordable units that are endangered of transitioning to market-rate units. Often, affordable housing providers need quick capital to purchase these properties to keep them in affordable programs.
BAPP will address this specific financing gap by offering 10-year term loans and a quick execution that will allow affordable housing providers to compete for market-rate properties. Once acquired, providers have up to 10 years to stabilize the property, develop a plan for long term affordability, and assure current residents are not displaced.
Beyond 10 years, developers will secure Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and/or other existing sources of affordable housing financing at the local, state, and federal levels to ensure long- term affordability. Under this program, it is estimated that another 200 to 400 homes will be taken off the speculative market. The initiative’s aim is to demonstrate that public sector investments can help stabilize communities and mitigate displacement pressure for the region’s most vulnerable residents. If expectations are met, BAPP could be scaled for greater impact.
How they did that:
- Developed relationships with affordable housing developers and financing institutions
- Worked with related and Bay Area congestion management agencies to identify the most flexible funding source<
- Kept its focus on location efficiency. MTC’s role in the governance of the program is not to pick the best housing projects (which is not their expertise) but to assure that the project locations align with the regions housing and climate goals