How Do We Decide What to Build? Jobs-Housing Fit

15 06 2017

Our recent post in Rooflines, the Shelterforce blog.  Read the original post here.

A Jobs-Housing Fit seems like the simplest of ideas: the housing that a region plans for and builds should match the needs of the people that live there now and in the future. But as we, the Bay Area’s residents, policymakers, advocates, and leaders, struggle with the housing affordability crisis, the housing that is being built doesn’t always meet this simple rule. We can benefit from a clearer framework for understanding what the housing needs of our region actually are and evaluating how housing production is meeting those needs. Jobs-Housing Fit is that framework.

Quite simply, a Jobs-Housing Fit analysis compares how our population is growing at different income levels to the affordability of housing within the same geography, allowing us to evaluate the fit between housing needs and housing production. The geographic scale of Jobs-Housing Fit analysis, a technique pioneered by Dr. Chris Benner of UC Davis, is a consideration in itself, and is a policy discussion that we encourage in thinking how this framework can be practically applied.

The virtues of a fit are obvious and intuitive: If housing is available and affordable for all residents in a region, households at all income levels will have a stable place to call home, leading to increased job security, higher community engagement, potentially shorter commutes and reduced greenhouse gas footprints, and a generally increased quality of life. Conversely, communities that build for only the highest income levels create economic segregation, to the detriment of the region as a whole.

It is an incontrovertible fact that our region is growing, and that our growing population demands more housing. However, this need cannot be sufficiently addressed by talking only about numbers of units built. The affordability and geography of housing production are essential factors that are too often left out of policy discussions. To create a Jobs-Housing Fit, where everyone can find and afford housing, policymakers need to remember the wide range of incomes that housing must serve, now and in the future.

As part of our continuing series of infographics, the San Francisco Council of Community Housing Organizations breaks down what a Jobs-Housing Fit would look like in the Bay Area.  Read the full report here.

This analysis dives deep into five specific focus areas that together form the puzzle of a Jobs-Housing Fit: population, jobs, income distribution, housing trends, and economic diversity. Together, they provide a grounding in what considerations are essential to planning for a future where housing is available and affordable to all.

We start with population, as it is the most basic unit of understanding how the Bay Area has and will continue to change. Beyond the top line figure, we look at predicted demographic shifts, and how those relate to housing preferences as we begin to craft our model.

After population, we examine jobs and the state of employment more generally. As profession and income level are major determinants of the type of home someone can afford, looking at how fields will change in the future is crucial to determining what types of housing we will need.


Following jobs, we dive into income distribution. This page is tightly tied to employment trends and reveals that, despite the Bay Area’s increasing prosperity compared with the rest of the country, much of our household growth will be in the lower income categories.

Housing trends show that our future planning and construction should have a renewed focus on increased density in response to changing preferences, especially among newer segments of the population, and environmental sustainability.

Next is economic diversity. Within the Bay Area, income inequality has increased, leading to increased economic segregation. Communities of concern, designated by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission using eight metrics that identify disenfranchised or vulnerable populations, often overlap with planned new development corridors. Intentional strategies, including basing development on a Jobs-Housing Fit analysis, must be employed to prevent displacement and ensure that low-income and communities of color equitably benefit from new development.

Finally, we look at our current performance in achieving a housing fit. In the Bay Area, the trend of housing production has not been in proportion to the affordability needs of the growing population. For this analysis, we use the Regional Needs Housing Allocation performance as a measure of how well the region is working toward a fit. There could be other baseline projections and metrics to use for a Jobs-Housing Fit analysis; we chose the RHNA as it offers current established projections for the region.

We encourage the housing policy discussion to incorporate this framework of a Jobs-Housing Fit. At whatever scale—local, multi-jurisdiction, or subregional—it is a powerful gauge for how housing policies and the housing market are on target with the needs of the current and growing workforce.

All of the eight graphics in this package can be found here. Please share the page with your colleagues, and comment here if you’d like to weigh in with your ideas to achieve a Jobs-Housing Fit.