Steinberg: CA Cap-and-Trade Must Fund Transit-Oriented Affordable Housing

Negotiations over the California state budget are producing dueling proposals on how best to spend revenue from the state’s cap-and-trade program.

steinbergatMacarthur
Senator Steinberg proposes affordable housing as a greenhouse gas reduction strategy. Photo courtesy TransForm.

While Governor Jerry Brown continues to call for a third of the cap-and-trade funds to go to CA high-speed rail, Senate President ProTem Darrell Steinberg last week expanded upon his alternative proposal to spend a larger share of the revenue on affordable housing and transit at the local and regional level.

State cap-and-trade funds are collected under the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, A.B. 32. The law provides a way for companies to meet a state-mandated cap on greenhouse gas emissions by buying “pollution credits” produced when others exceed emissions reductions. Estimates vary on how much revenue the program will generate, but it could produce billions each year between now and 2020.

Standing in front of an active construction site for new housing units near Oakland’s MacArthur BART station last Thursday, Steinberg called for permanent sources of funding for affordable housing, mass transit, and sustainable communities development. The Senator argued that  California is facing a “catastrophic funding crisis” as affordable housing bonds run out, and noted that the transportation sector is the state’s biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

“Californians are logging more vehicle miles annually than ever before,” Steinberg said.

Behind him, a forklift raised a load of lumber high up in the air, with an attached sign reading, “At least 972 lbs of CO2 emissions reduced every day.” That’s the amount by which  the housing project, which will provide 624 housing units next to the BART station, is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to other housing developments. Of those apartments, 108 will be leased at below-market rates.

Stuart Cohen of TransForm emphasized the link between affordable housing at transit-oriented developments and transportation, citing a new report from the Center for Neighborhood Technology that studied greenhouse gas reductions from building affordable homes near transit.

The report [PDF] found that low-income people living within ¼-mile of frequent transit drive half as much as those living where transit service is not as good. It also found that low-income households living near transit drive less and ride transit significantly more often than higher income people living the same distance from transit.

“If we could build 15,000 affordable homes near transit,” said Cohen, “there would be 105 million fewer miles per year traveled on our roads. With three years of funding for affordable housing, we could produce 1.58 million metric tonnes of carbon reduction.”

Steinberg’s cap-and-trade spending plan includes a smaller percentage of revenue — 20 percent — for high-speed rail than the governor’s proposal. Governor Brown’s plan would allocate 30 percent to transit, including capital and operations, and another 10 percent on street and highway repairs, deferred maintenance, and complete streets. “Active transportation,” or walking and biking projects, don’t have dedicated funding in either proposal.

  • Juan Matute

    Great article. Thanks Melanie!

  • calwatch

    There’s some research papers that says that more research is needed: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20108961

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1361920907000776

  • Alex Brideau III

    It’s only difficult to do errands on public transit if one chooses to live in a transit-unfriendly area. I pick up my daughter from her school and we take either the bus or train home. Of course, we live in a dense area well served by public transit that has allowed us to transition to a car-light household.

  • Alex Brideau III

    A good point, but keep in mind that family activities need not be decentralized. We chose our daughter’s school based on several factors, but one of those is transit friendliness. The same goes for her summer camp options. The key is incorporating transit friendliness into the decision-making process. (Not to shamelessly plug, but Google Maps has been my best friend in this regard.)

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

CA Sen. Steinberg Proposes New Spending Plan for Cap-and-Trade Revenue

|
Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) announced a proposed plan to create a permanent spending strategy for cap-and-trade revenue [PDF] that prioritizes investments in affordable transit-oriented housing, transit expansion, and CA high-speed rail. Unlike the Governor’s plan for this year’s budget, Senate Bill 1156 also proposes investments in “complete streets” and transit operations. Calling the […]

Breaking News: Deal Reached on CA’s Cap-and-Trade Spending Plan

|
Earlier this evening, the bicameral Budget Conference Committee  approved a compromise between state legislators and Governor Brown on how to spend $850 million in revenues from the state’s cap-and-trade system for the next fiscal year. The new plan largely stuck to the Governor’s original proposal for the first year of the expenditure plan, but it […]

Metro Takes a Stand on Cap and Trade Funds: Spend Them on Sustainable Transportation

|
As part of today’s Metro Board meeting, the Board of Directors passed a motion calling on the state’s Air Resources Board to spend funds collected through the state’s cap and trade program on sustainable transportation funding. California’s cap-and-trade program is the state’s primary strategy for reducing the State’s greenhouse gas emissions to meet emissions reduction […]

Steinberg’s Cap-and-Trade Spending Plan Gains Momentum, No News on Deal

|
Despite being only 0.5 percent of the California budget, cap-and-trade revenue spending is emerging as a sticking point in Sacramento as Democrats in the Assembly, Senate, and Governor’s Office push three different spending plans. The legislature must approve a state budget by June 15. Each of the three proposed plans for spending cap-and-trade revenue to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) […]

Infographic: Comparing California’s Three Cap-and-Trade Spending Proposals

|
In the midst of California’s state budget negotiations, the legislature must separately decide how to spend the state’s cap-and-trade revenue, be it on public transit, high-speed rail, affordable housing near transit, or other emissions-reducing programs. Three different proposals for slicing this new pie come from Governor Jerry Brown, the Senate, and the Assembly. In the next […]

Sen. Steinberg Proposes Carbon Tax on Gas Instead of Cap-and-Trade

|
CA Senator Darrell Steinberg proposed a change yesterday to California’s nascent cap-and-trade program that would replace next year’s cap on fuel emissions with a per-gallon carbon tax. Steinberg called it a “broader, more stable, and more flexible” way to reduce emissions from fuels than cap-and-trade. His proposal would apply the revenue raised from the tax […]