It’s no secret that we are collectively going through a time of multiple crises – exorbitant housing prices, lack of affordable transportation options, and the dangers of the climate crisis. The way that housing developments have been designed and built have been exacerbating and worsening the impacts of these systemic issues.
College Heights is a community proposal that aims to alleviate the effects of these problems by providing a choice for an affordable and sustainable development for people to live in. The proposed development increases housing stock and choice (with reservations for low and low-income households), integrates with Hayward area’s transportation system, and is designed to improve environmental sustainability.
Understanding the big issues: Housing Affordability, Lack of Transportation Choices, Climate Crisis
Housing costs are continuing to rise in the United States due to scarce supply in many urban areas, especially in California. Furthermore, the housing stock lacks variety. A home buyer or renter primarily has only two options: a large single-family home (SFH) or a mid to high-rise apartment complex. What is missing is the “middle” stock of housing, such as duplexes, cottage courts, and courtyard buildings located in walkable neighborhoods, which has typically been outlawed from building since the mid-1940s.
Housing affordability and the lack of affordable housing in California has been exacerbated by the historically low funds for subsidized housing and limits on housing construction in the state. This has driven up housing prices and has disproportionately impacted low and very low-income households. With limited housing stock and variety of housing types, there is unmet demand for housing in the state, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Lack of Transportation Choices
Transportation connects residents with necessary community services and amenities, such as healthcare, education, employment, and nutritious food options. Therefore, the system must be easily accessible by all community members. However, in the United States, a private vehicle is typically the only choice that households can use get to where they need to go. The nationwide dependence on cars in the United States as the primary source of transportation has led to a system that is more expensive and less accessible for residents to use. The lack of choices for transportation, especially transit services, affects much of the population, including:
- the elderly, who may not have the physical capabilities to safely drive
- low-income groups, who may be spending a greater amount of their funds on transportation (private or public) or who may not have access to a vehicle
- Black, Indigenous, Latino, or other people of color, who bear greater risks to facing violence in being pulled over by police
- immigrant or undocumented populations, who may not have the funds to purchase a vehicle, the skills to operate a vehicle for a period of time, and who may have to constantly live in fear of the greater consequences (i.e. deportation, police brutality) for being pulled over for a traffic stop
- the youth, who are not legally able to drive a vehicle
- People living with disabilities, who may not have the physical or mental capabilities to operate a vehicle or the funds or time to access paratransit.
Want to learn more about this topic? Check out TransitCenter’s the State of Equity in San Francisco, San Francisco Transit Riders Executive Director Mark Cordes piece on regional equity, and Shared Use Mobility Center.
Climate crisis: Focusing on greenhouse gas emissions
An average person takes in about 11,000 liters of air a day at resting rate, with children inhaling more than adults with respect to heart rate, breathing frequency, and body surface area. Considering the vast volume of air we take in every day, it is important to consider how the air we breathe affects our bodies. However, long-term exposure to these levels of outdoor air pollution is carcinogenic. Long term exposure to small particulate matter of 10 microns or less in diameter (PM10 & PM2.5), can cause cardiovascular, respiratory diseases, and various types of cancer.
Buildings and transportation industries make up a large percentage of emissions (about 60% together) in the United States. The transportation infrastructure in the United States primarily supports users and drivers of single-occupancy automobiles, which are currently powered primarily by fossil fuels. Global warming is worsened by anthropogenic operations that emit GHGs emissions. The gross amount of GHGs emitted by the United States has grown by 3.7% since 1990, and according to the Environmental Protection Agency, this is an unsustainable rate of growth. It is necessary to decrease emissions by reducing energy use and switching to cleaner sources of energy instead of using oil and gas sources.
You can learn more about emissions sources from the EPA here.
How does College Heights address these big issues?
In a nutshell, College Heights is addressing these big issues by:
- increasing housing and the variety of housing types available. Additionally, this proposal reserves a percentage of units for very low-income and low-income households.
- Included in College Heights’ proposed design is a robust transportation demand management (TDM) plan where residents can use multiple modes of transportation to travel around Hayward and the surrounding areas.
- College Heights is meant to be a development that uses sustainable building materials and encourages sustainable living by residents.
In the next article, we will discuss the decades-old challenge of building College Heights in Hayward.