The $130 million, however, is a drop in the bucket for California's affordable housing funding needs. Despite growing demand, revenue for housing subsidies was slashed heavily in recent years after Governor Brown dissolved redevelopment agencies and federal sources of affordable housing funds dried up.
If the legislature sticks to its budget bill plan, the AHSC will receive 20 percent of future cap-and-trade funds each year. This is projected to be between $600 million and $1 billion per year over the next five years, according to estimates by the Legislative Analyst's Office.
The state has requirements for how AHSC funds are spent -- at least half must go towards affordable housing subsidies, and at least half must benefit disadvantaged communities. Those two categories can overlap, so that doesn't mean 100 percent of the money is already set aside. Cities and others applying for AHSC funds will also have to demonstrate how their projects will reduce GHGs by building housing where transit, walking, and biking will be attractive options for getting around.
At last week's meeting, SGC Executive Director Mike McCoy said the agency deliberately left open the question of what the proposed guidelines should be, to avoid influencing the discussion prematurely. SGC staff presented an overview of the program, and then workshop participants broke into brainstorming groups.
The groups discussed a wide range of topics: How can the program avoid contributing to displacement and gentrification? What can be done to preserve existing affordable housing so people are not forced to move to places that require more driving? How can driving be reduced in rural areas that lack decent transit?
Participants were still engaged in discussions after the three-hour meeting adjourned. Craig Adelman of the Low Income Investment Fund was enthusiastic about the meeting, saying the program “was a good direction for California to take in terms of leadership in this area.”
The AHSC guidelines are just taking shape, and one of its most hotly-debated issues is how to define the "disadvantaged communities" the program is required to benefit. California's Environmental Protection Agency just released a new version of CalEnviroScreen, a tool that maps disadvantaged communities by income and air quality, but its results are controversial. To receive more public input on how to define disadvantaged communities for the purpose of spending cap-and-trade funds, the California Air Resources Board will hold public workshops next week in Fresno on August 25, Los Angeles on August 26, and Oakland on September 3.
The SGC plans to release draft AHSC guidelines in September, with another round of public comment to follow. Final guidelines will be in effect for funding solicitations expected in January 2015. Funding awards will be announced before next year's state budget wraps up in June.
Streetsblog California editor Melanie Curry has been thinking about transportation, and how to improve conditions for bicyclists, since her early days commuting by bike to UCLA long ago. She was Managing Editor at the East Bay Express, and edited Access Magazine for the University of California Transportation Center. She also earned her Masters in City Planning from UC Berkeley.