Ben Metcaff 11.20.19. - DCRP Lecture
In 2018, responding to Trump Administration efforts to weaken federal fair housing laws, the state of California enacted Assembly Bill 686 (AB 686), which embedded into state law an affirmative duty for all California local governments to, among other things, “overcome patterns of segregation and foster inclusive communities free from barriers that restrict access to opportunity”. AB 686 took California well beyond existing interpretations of the federal fair housing act to add an express obligation to all California cities and counties to affirmatively further fair housing in the context of not only housing and community development funding decisions but also regularly occurring updates to local general plans and zoning. Furthermore, these local efforts to address patterns of residential segregation through local land use decisions were then required to be reviewed and affirmed by the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development as part of its ongoing oversight of local governments’ Housing Element updates through the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) process.
This talk reviews current efforts at the state and national level to address patterns of segregation through zoning and land use policy. I explore nascent efforts within California to comply with AB 686, notably through the use of data and analytic “opportunity mapping” tools that spatially locate segregation and concentrated poverty and endeavor to tease out the geographies that may be most facilitative of economic mobility. While acknowledging the limitations of mapping tools to fully inform decision making, I argue for the use of such analytic tools as a complement to a robust participatory process at the local level and, in particular, as the primary means for the state to empirically validate local compliance with AB 686.
Ben Metcalf is a Former Director of the California Department of Housing and Community Development and a founder and principal of Stronger Foundations LLC, a consulting firm supporting a range of public and private sector clients on housing related matters. His approach—which values partnership and creativity—draws on his experience as a hands-on practitioner and strategic policy maker. Ben was formerly Director of the California Department of Housing and Community Development serving under Governors Brown and Newsom. Ben also worked at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development where he served most recently as an appointee of President Obama in the role of Deputy Assistant Secretary overseeing HUD’s Office of Multifamily Housing Programs. Previously, he developed mixed-income and mixed-use communities in Northern California with BRIDGE Housing Corporation. He has a Master’s in Public Policy and Urban Planning from the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Graduate School of Design as well a Bachelor of Arts, summa cum laude, from Amherst College. He lives in Oakland, California with his wife Melissa and children Teo and Lelia.