Following the recommendations of its staff, the Strategic Growth Council formally approved $122 million in grants for 28 projects designed to provide affordable housing and reduce carbon emissions throughout the state. This is the inaugural awarding of funds through the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities grant program, which is administered jointly by the SGC and Department of Housing and Community Development.
Recommended projects, which consist of affordable housing projects, totally 2,000 units, and other transit-oriented developments throughout the state, were announced ten days ago by SGC staff. Projects were selected based on a predetermined set of criteria, including potential for greenhouse gas reduction, project readiness, and promotion of other state policy goals related to compact development and active transportation.
SGC Chair Ken Alex said in a statement that the grants would "help provide housing, improve transportation and transportation options, benefit disadvantaged communities, and most importantly, reduce greenhouse gas emissions while promoting a broad array of worthwhile projects."
This year's 28 recommended projects leverage nearly six to one in matching funds and will reduce an estimated 723,286 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions—the equivalent to taking 140,483 cars off the road for one year.
The program is funded by monies from the state's cap-and-trade program. This year, the state has dedicated $832 million to programs that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
"California's investments are helping bolster innovative and sustainable transportation to limit greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change," said California State Transportation Agency Secretary Brian Kelly in a statement. "This year's cap and trade investments help increase access to housing that is close to reliable public transportation, a smart investment that improves overall quality of life in California."
Seventy-seven percent of the projects selected are in disadvantaged communities; a significant increase over the program's required 50 percent. Stakeholders debated the definition of "disadvantaged" as the program was being devised last year. Fifty-two percent of recipients are considered transit oriented developments.
The program did not deliberately seek equity among the California's population centers. Nevertheless, the state's two largest metropolitan planning regions, the Southern California Association of Governments and the Bay Area's Metropolitan Transportation Commission, received eleven and ten awards, respectively.
At a time when communities across the state are promoting projects that conform to regional Sustainable Communities Strategies, the AHSC program is one of the only sources of funding from the state to promote SCS-friendly projects.
In a conference call last week, SGC Executive Director Mike McCoy said that many of the 56 projects that were considered for funding were credible, qualified candidates. Next year, the program will award around $400 million in grants. McCoy said that many projects that did not receive grants this year could qualify next year.
SGC and HCD staff will seek input and discuss next year's funding process at an upcoming series of workshops. The first two are July 14 in Sacramento and July 20 in Los Angeles.
Map of Grant Recipients (pdf)