This commentary was contributed by Tahra Goraya, Monterey Bay Economic Partnership president, CEO. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors. BenitoLink invites all community members to share their ideas and opinions. By registering as a BenitoLink user in the top right corner of our home page and agreeing to follow our Terms of Use, you can write counter opinions or share your insights on current issues.

Housing policy recommendations can serve as a catalyst for collaborative solutions to our regional housing crisis.

Monterey Bay Economic Partnership (MBEP) recently released a new white paper offering local policy recommendations for increasing housing supply and affordability for the region. That white paper, “Practical Housing Policy: Increasing Supply and Affordability,” was unveiled at a regional Housing Summit attended by nearly 100 people at California State University, Monterey Bay. Its five policy recommendations are designed to serve as a catalyst for informed discussions and collaboration among policymakers and stakeholders in tackling housing challenges and shaping the region’s housing future. 

The fact that a policy paper was released before a sold-out audience bears testament to the reality — and the stark realization — that housing and housing policy are among the most significant factors impacting economic well-being in every corner of the Monterey Bay region.

Whether you harvest crops or own a multi-national produce company, work as a secretary or a superintendent, housing matters. It matters in how and where you work, how and where you do business or run a business, whether you can afford to remain in the region, attend school, raise a family, or retire.

Housing — the cost of housing, the availability of housing —makes a difference in how many hours you have to work, how many hours you must commute, how many roommates you need to have to afford rent. For some, the lack of affordable housing may mean renting someone’s couch, a converted garage or a greenhouse. 

Housing policy makes a difference in whether you can put aside money towards a kid’s college fund, emergency savings, investments, or your own retirement when your rent payment exceeds that recommended 30 percent threshold of income. And it’s worthy of note: Nowhere in the tri-county region are average rents affordable by that standard.

It’s why your kids can’t buy a house, or decide to move out of state. 

It’s why too many college students in our own backyard are reporting both housing and food insecurity, and why a shocking number of students report having been homeless at some point during their college years. 

Which is why housing policy isn’t a dry, academic exercise, why it matters, should matter, will matter. It has to matter — to all of us.

To face our housing crisis head-on and proactively seek solutions, we cannot take sides, work in silos or turn policy into hard-and-fast, cut-and-dried templates that remain set in stone. At best, policies should adapt to meet the needs of our cities, the needs of our counties, the needs of our times.

These are times that require collaboration among different sectors, times that call for listening to each other and considering different perspectives so that jurisdictions can adopt practical policies that can increase housing supply, enhance affordability, and shape a more equitable housing ecosystem.

MBEP, a regional nonprofit member organization, launched its housing initiative in 2016 to support an increase in the supply of all housing at all income levels in the Monterey Bay region.

Our targeted initiatives also focus on economic and workforce development, and digital equity, and we do so by working collaboratively with our cross-sector partners, stakeholders, member organizations and jurisdictions to address those challenging issues on a regional level. Our work is driven by the collective vision of improving the economic health and quality of life for all who live and work in the Monterey Bay region. To get there, we have to work together, consider alternatives that have been proven successful elsewhere, to look for solutions that meet the needs of our jurisdictions now and in the years ahead. 

Our region’s housing needs won’t go away until we address them head-on.

MBEP’s new white paper, “Practical Housing Policy: Increasing Supply and Affordability,” recommends approaches that have accomplished progress in increasing jurisdictions’ ability to generate more affordable housing. While no single set of policies is universally applicable, the menu of policies in this Policy Paper provides guidance for any jurisdiction in the Monterey Bay Region to begin or continue increasing housing supply and affordability. They are designed to complement each other when implemented together. 

We don’t advocate a “one-size-fits-all” approach to policy, housing or otherwise. We do, however, advocate for a collaborative approach to facing the very real, very critical challenges of meeting our region’s housing needs. 

Monterey Bay Economic Partnership is a pro-housing coalition because we are a pro-economic and workforce development coalition as well. Those goals are interconnected and inseparable and we are privileged to have the staff and reach to address all of them together.