San Jose gets to work on its Anti-Displacement Strategy

Last September, the San José City Council adopted a 10-part Citywide Residential Anti- Displacement Strategy to address displacement in the City. The Strategy includes three high-priority recommendations, two of which are directly related to the San José Challenge Grant: establishing tenant preferences for affordable housing and exploring a Community Opportunity to Purchase program to give non-profits the right of first offer when properties go up for sale. Council also directed staff to “jumpstart this work with the first three recommendations of the Strategy and convene a working group to further develop the details of the proposed policies and programs.” 

After six months of planning and preparation, the San José Challenge Grant Team has begun the process of directly engaging the community on three priorities: 1) co-creating the Community Opportunity to Purchase (COPA) program, 2) moving enabling legislation to support tenant preferences, and 3) supporting the growth of the South Bay Community Land Trust, our local community land trust. 

COPA outreach: Moving away from “Decide, Announce, Defend”

Beginning with the first SOMOS Mayfair hosted event in late March 2021, San José Challenge Grant partners have adopted a “dual-track” community engagement approach. 

On one track, hosted and developed by SOMOS Mayfair, grassroots community members are invited to learn more about the potential of the COPA policy and help to make it a reality through organizing and advocacy. The SOMOS Mayfair-led process is meant to create a community vision for COPA that will inform the City’s policy. This enables SOMOS Mayfair to help garner community support for COPA and to participate in shaping the policy through the City-led process. 

On the other track, managed by the City and run through a facilitator, stakeholders with expertise in housing, development, real estate, policy are convened to help craft the City’s policy with input from community members at larger advisory meetings. The City-led process is meant to move away from a “decide-announce-defend” model of decision-making that many cities use, where decision makers decide on the policy first, announce it to the public, and defend what has already been decided. 

By bringing together a diverse and representative group of people who have expertise in housing policy alongside a larger community forum for the general public to participate, we will co-create a policy that works for all stakeholders and focuses on the needs of our most impacted populations. 

SB 649: Using tenant preferences to prevent displacement 

Recent studies have shown the effect of displacement on our families, our seniors, and our low-income workers. Displaced children experience more absences, lower school completion rates, and increased educational delays or behavioral problems. The emotional toll of displacement and living with the threat of displacement is significant, affecting mental wellbeing, sense of belonging, and community cohesion. 

Along with the financial and health impacts of this crisis, displacement is detrimental to our environmental and climate goals. In coastal cities like San José, increasing housing costs and the lack of accessible affordable housing are forcing families to commute long distances, some over 4 hours daily, to work. This out-migration in search of affordable housing puts more cars on the road, increases congestion and greenhouse gases, and reduces the time parents are able to care for children or elderly parents. Other families are simply choosing to leave the state entirely as evidenced by recent Census data pointing to anemic state population growth and relocation data showing massive movement to lower-cost states like Nevada, Arizona, and Texas. 

Local tenant preferences have been shown to be an effective tool to help create neighborhood and community stability and stop displacement in communities most at risk. By prioritizing specific groups of potential tenants who are most at risk of displacement, tenant preferences can limit displacement, reduce harm of families and seniors, drastically shorten commute times and decrease vehicle miles traveled.

But preferences – such as for Anti-Displacement and Neighborhood residents – require the population to be explicitly acknowledged by the state or federal government. Without this acknowledgement, there can be legal uncertainty for affordable housing developers and lenders who want to use tenant preferences in conjunction with federal tax credits and tax-exempt bonds for affordable housing. The state legislature could address this uncertainty by making an explicit finding that 1) State funding could be used on projects that use these kinds of preferences, and 2) these local ordinances are consistent with state and federal fair housing law if they support a pattern of local policies and programs that foster diversity and housing choice.

In coordination with the City of San José’s Housing Department, SOMOS Mayfair and the Bay Area Housing Action Coalition, Senator David Cortese (D-San José) introduced SB 649 in February. The bill would create a State policy that supports housing for populations facing displacement, aligning tenant preferences with federal tax code requirements and thereby qualifying affordable housing projects that use tenant preferences for tax credit or bond financing. The bill passed the California State Senate in mid-May with a vote of 37-0. It will now go to the State Assembly and hopefully to the Governor’s desk in summer or fall 2021. 

In addition, to use the preferences on State-funded developments, City staff are researching, analyzing, and creating findings to satisfy the California Department of Housing and Community Development’s requirements. 

Pilot Demonstration Project: Growing Land Trust Capacity

In November 2020, The South Bay Community Land Trust, in a partnership with SOMOS Mayfair and the City of San José’s Housing Department, received a grant from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation to support the development of a Pilot Preservation Demonstration Project. The pilot project will help the South Bay Community Land Trust build the necessary capacity to grow and do future projects in San José. 

The core group (SB CLT, SOMOS Mayfair, and the Housing Department) is collaborating with the Land Trust to help move this project forward, including community outreach, identifying funding, and developing a feasibility plan. With the support of SOMOS Mayfair, which has deep roots in some of the most impacted areas in the City, the Land Trust will mobilize support for these models of preservation. In addition, the City’s Housing Department is exploring funding sources to help support preservation projects in San José. 

SBCLT, with participation from the PBF partners, has worked to build capacity by hiring a land trust consultant to assist with the pilot preservation demonstration project. They have held community education forums and hosted a pilot project stakeholders kickoff event attended by affordable housing developers, community organizations, policy experts, and potential funding partners.

Path Forward

In the next phase of work, the San José Challenge Grant Team will continue its COPA community outreach efforts. Our current goal is to develop a draft policy framework by fall 2020 and have the policy adopted by early 2022 with implementation starting in early 2022. Our team will also work for the passage of SB 649 and after the State’s approval, request City Council’s approval for a tenant preference ordinance that reduces displacement risk. 

By the end of the year, we are hopefully standing in front of the South Bay Community Land Trust’s pilot demonstration project, with project partners, current and future residents, and the sense that this is just the first of many. 

The Partnership for the Bay’s Future Launches Breakthrough Grants Program

The Partnership for the Bay’s Future is pleased to announce the launch of the Breakthrough Grants, a program to help communities pass equitable housing policy. Selected local governments will receive a dynamic, mission-driven fellow who will work on community-driven local policy in affordable housing production and preservation. The Partnership will also provide two years of grant funding to community partners to engage and activate the local community. The whole Breakthrough Grant cohort will have access to a flexible pool of funding for technical assistance to meet their policy goals. The value of this support is about $500,000 per jurisdiction. 

The Breakthrough Grants, managed by the San Francisco Foundation, is a cohort program of Bay Area local governments interested in catalyzing policy change to preserve existing affordable housing and create new affordable units. Up to ten jurisdictions will be selected to be a part of the two-year program. Applications may be submitted HERE.

“We are excited to announce the Breakthrough Grants during affordable housing month,” said Aysha Pamukcu, Policy Fund Initiative Officer for the Partnership for the Bay’s Future. “Housing affordability and stability is an issue for everyone in the Bay Area, and it is particularly acute for communities of color and those who earn low incomes. This program will help accelerate housing security and a more inclusive economy for all.” 

Applications are due July 30, 2021, and awards will be announced in the Fall. 

What are some example Breakthrough Grant policies?  

  • Developing and implementing a Housing Element that demonstrates the jurisdiction is affirmatively furthering fair housing, engaging community, and centering the voices of residents at risk of displacement 
  • Leveraging federal funding to sustain COVID-era housing policies, such as using motels, tiny homes and other spaces to provide housing 
  • Working with faith-based organizations to allow for greater. flexibility in building housing on religious land  
  • Supporting community land trusts through developing collective acquisition processes   
  • Developing and implementing a workplan to leverage public lands for affordable housing.  
  • Passing a Community or Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (COPA/TOPA)  

Find more potential policies HERE.

Support to apply for the Breakthrough Grants 

The Policy Fund is offering technical assistance to jurisdictions that would like support in developing their Breakthrough Grant applications. These grants will provide funding to a jurisdiction to work with consultants on developing a competitive Breakthrough Grant proposal. If your jurisdiction does not have a consultant or community partner identified, contact the Policy Fund for guidance. You can request application support HERE

To learn more about the Breakthrough Grants, register for our information session on June 2 at noon and visit our website at HERE.

 Challenge Grant partners share about their experience 

 The Policy Fund currently administers the Challenge Grants, which is a cohort-based program that enables local policy change in tenant protection and affordable housing preservation. Challenge Grant teams across the Bay Area shared some of the impact the program has had on their housing efforts. 

“We were awarded a Challenge Grant last year, which placed a fellow within our department and has added capacity we need to address some of the root causes of the affordability crisis in our community,” said Rachel Horst, Housing Project Manager, City of East Palo Alto. “Our fellow provides critical support to our policy priorities and partnership with community organizations.” 

“The work has moved forward thanks to the core team,” said Aboubacar “Asn” Ndiaye, San Jose Challenge Grant Fellow. “It has built a stronger partnership between government staff and community, which means we can craft equity-centered policy like the Citywide Anti-Displacement Strategy. The other thing that has worked really well is having a strong fellow cohort: being connected to other jurisdictions who are going through similar challenges has helped us troubleshoot and share resources.” 

“The Challenge Grant program gave us a new opportunity to center community voice in the policy-making process,” said Leslie Gordon, Program Manager of Equitable Development at Urban Habitat. “The Bay Area 4 All Preservation Table is made up of grassroots organizations, like ACCE, APEN, CJJC, and OakCLT, so all of our work is rooted in their members’ lived experiences and ideas about how to transform the housing system to make it work for BIPOC, immigrant, and low-income communities.” 

Interested in the Breakthrough Grant program and have questions? Email  

San Francisco Was Shaped by Racist Housing Laws. Will a Fix Be Racist Too?

At the nonprofit San Francisco Foundation, which focuses on housing and economic equity, senior director Khanh Russo supports zoning reform but says it must go hand-in-hand with economic reforms. If poor and working people can’t own homes, basic housing inequity will remain. “Generational wealth is passed through property,” Russo tells The Frisc. “When communities are excluded” from homeownership, “it impacts their ability to build wealth.”


In June of 2020, San Francisco evicted a senior citizen from atop Telegraph Hill — the 63-year-old Christopher Columbus statue — in response to decades of complaints that the monument celebrated colonialism and white supremacy.

Yet the city has left other racist legacies in place, not on pedestals but woven into rules that govern how and where housing can be built in our neighborhoods. Toppling Columbus required a crane, but reforming racially motivated 20th-century rules, enacted in response to nonwhites moving in, will be a heavier lift, because there’s little agreement what antiracist development laws should look like.

While Minneapolis and Portland have done away with rules that only allow one single family house per lot, and Berkeley recently voted to do so (but hasn’t actually crafted new rules), San Francisco has been resistant, even as California’s housing hawks — led by state Senator Scott Weiner, who represents the city — have chased their white whale, pardon the term, of single-family zoning.

According to a much-cited UC Berkeley study last year, some 82 percent of residential lots in the Bay Area are exclusively zoned for single-family homes. That figure is much lower in San Francisco per the Planning Department, at only about 37 percent for what’s known as RH-1. Another 16 percent are zoned at the slightly denser RH-2, which still puts vast tracts of neighborhoods like the Portola and the Sunset at the lowest densities, and not at a particularly efficient use of buildable land in our compact city.

Equity equals inclusion

Racist exclusion was common before World War II. Berkeley was the birthplace of single-family zoning, natch, way back in 1916. Even after the U.S. passed antidiscrimination laws in the 1960s, cities still crafted land-use rules to make housing more scarce and exclusive, keeping out mixed uses and pricing out low-income and working people.

Today most Bay Area cities remain segregated by race and class, on account of what kind of housing gets built where. “In my former work about urban planning and public meetings, there was no hiding how people really felt about affordable housing” — which is to say, how they felt about the kinds of people they assumed would come live near them, says Jamila Henderson, a former analyst for Boston city planners and now an associate at the Oakland nonprofit think tank PolicyLink.

While Berkeley’s city council voted unanimously to strike down single-family zoning citywide, San Francisco is moving much more cautiously. So far, the city’s boldest proposal isn’t very bold at all. Sup. Rafael Mandelman wants to upgrade residential lots for up to four units, but only on corners and within a half-mile of major transit lines.

“Our approach is to do this in a way that is broadly distributed across the city, such as on corner lots generally, rather than targeting increased housing development into certain neighborhoods,” Mandelman says in a statement to The Frisc. “This is a change that we would expect to see play out over the next 50 years, not the next five years.”

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Even so, backlash came swiftly. Board of Supervisors president Shamann Walton, whose district includes the Bayview, argued that Mandelman’s proposal could further destabilize the city’s shrinking Black population, and that developers would target areas like his district to buy up cheap properties and turn them into pricey multiunit buildings. “I guess people really don’t want Black people and other communities of color in this city,” he told the SF Chronicle in February.

Ghosts of the Fillmore

Walton’s objection speaks to another part of our racist development history that continues to haunt San Francisco: so-called urban renewal, when the Black community of the Fillmore was gutted by city planners.

“There’s a tendency to … forget that people’s fears are real,” says Todd David, director of the YIMBY-leaning group Housing Action Coalition. “We need to engage with people on this issue. Nobody likes to be dictated to.”

Walton did not respond to requests for comment, but other critics of the new rezoning push also see ominous examples in recent history. Margaretta Lin, director of the Oakland housing initiative Just Cities, says that without protections like eviction moratoriums and rental assistance for existing tenants, “developers are going to focus on neighborhoods where they can make a quick buck. We know that’ll happen because it’s what happened after the subprime mortgage crisis.”

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And until cities like San Francisco can recover from the pandemic — a crisis that has laid bare systemic inequities in the economy, housing, and healthcare — rezoning isn’t a priority, says Vanessa Carter, a data analyst at the USC Equity Research Institute. “The major concern right now, particularly through the pandemic, is just keeping people in their homes,” she tells The Frisc. “Single-family zoning is not the thing organizers are triaging.”

At the nonprofit San Francisco Foundation, which focuses on housing and economic equity, senior director Khanh Russo supports zoning reform but says it must go hand-in-hand with economic reforms. If poor and working people can’t own homes, basic housing inequity will remain. “Generational wealth is passed through property,” Russo tells The Frisc. “When communities are excluded” from homeownership, “it impacts their ability to build wealth.”

Continue to the full article HERE.

Kinship in Housing – the Story of Friendship

Reflective of its name, the story of how the Friendship Senior Housing project came together is truly a story of kinship.

Set to break ground in Summer 2022 at 1904 Adeline Street, the 50-unit senior apartment building will sit on land owned by Gerald Agee Ministries in the Ralph Bunche neighborhood (behind DeFremery Park) of West Oakland. In an area where 27% of the population lives below the poverty line and the median family income is 36% of Area Median Income (AMI), housing isn’t the first challenge Pastor Agee has helped his community face.

“I grew up in Oakland and have seen the scene change,” says Agee. “In the ‘90s, I worked with other pastors to start a drug rehab program. Then we turned our attention to guns and stray bullets, and once we got those issues calmed, I could easily see that our next challenge was housing. Eight years ago we talked about the incoming affordable housing crisis, and have been working towards this ever since.”

Agee’s church, Friendship Christian Center, owned some unused land, which prompted Agee to begin interviewing developers in 2017 to see how they could use that surplus land to create affordable housing for members of their community. After speaking with dozens of companies, however, he was frustrated to find that none shared his vision—that was until he met Don Gilmore, Executive Director of the Community Housing Development Corporation (CHDC), a Richmond-based organization that has spent the last 30 years working to provide high-quality affordable housing and neighborhood services in the greater Bay Area.

“When I sat down with Don, I already had ideas about what needed to be done here,” says Agee, “but I never had to speak them, because he spoke them. I wanted to develop the church’s land in a way that would create affordable homes, while also bringing new resources into our community. That was the same heartbeat that Don Gilmore had.”

Gilmore and Agee quickly struck a deal wherein CHDC would split the developer fee–of which the developer typically keeps 90%–equally with Friendship Christian Center. Also atypically, CHDC allowed Friendship to retain ownership of their land and keep any income generated from the property in perpetuity.

“After witnessing black churches giving up their land to affordable housing developers and getting no more than their name on the door in return, we are on a mission to let communities know they have the right to ask for more,” says Gilmore. “We want money generated from these projects to stay in the communities where it is so urgently needed.”

But Gilmore and Agee still needed funding to get the project off the ground. CHDC guaranteed the loan and contacted the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), a CDFI that administers funds for the Bay’s Future Fund (BFF), for predevelopment support. As the investing arm of the Partnership for the Bay’s Future and one of the largest housing funds in the nation, BFF is focused entirely on preserving, protecting, and producing affordable housing in the Bay Area. And this was exactly the kind of project they were looking for.

“Gentrification is a real issue in Oakland,” says Cindy Wu, Executive Director of LISC Bay Area. “The black population has decreased dramatically. A lot of that has to do with housing and displacement, and a lot has to do with disinvestment in minority neighborhoods. This project allows not only for the maintaining of a black presence in the community, but also for a recycling of resources back into the communities that need it most, to help them grow stronger.”

Together, the Bay’s Future Fund and LISC were able to make an interest only loan of $600k to support the project and, in August 2023, 49 local seniors earning at or below 50% AMI will be able to move in. A portion of the units will also be set aside for formerly unhoused seniors.

Residents will live in a four-story housing complex that will provide a new model for sustainable living. The building is being developed with extensive environmental considerations and energy efficient measures, and green building standards, including solar powered electricity and a rainwater harvesting system. A people-friendly outdoor courtyard will maximize sun exposure, while protecting residents from the prevailing winds. In addition, the thermal integrity of the building will eliminate the need for air conditioning, reduce heating consumption, and create greater comfort levels for residents.

Occupants of Friendship Senior Housing will also have access to all services provided to the Friendship congregation, including financial literacy services, low interest car loans for reliable clean transportation, leadership programs, and other services identified in an individualized care plan that will be developed and maintained for the senior residents. In addition, because the money from the project is going back to the church, the very existence of the new housing development will provide more capital to increase the strength and potential of those programs for all those in the community who need them.

“We’re proud to be a true partner in creating homes for those in need in our community,” says Agee. “We’re also building wealth and experience, and ushering in a better day.”

San Jose explores policy allowing nonprofits to purchase affordable housing 

The City of San Jose is exploring a Community Opportunity to Purchase Act (COPA), which is one of its Challenge Grant priorities. COPA is part of San Jose’s citywide anti-displacement strategy, which was approved last year and supported by the Challenge Grant team. Check out the article below from the San Jose Spotlight describing this work and highlighting team members in local government and community. —  Aboubacar “Asn” Ndiaye, San Jose Challenge Grant Fellow 

San Jose explores policy allowing nonprofits to purchase affordable housing 

Lloyd Alaban, San Jose Spotlight 

MARCH 31, 2021 

San Jose could soon allow nonprofits to purchase apartment complexes before developers or landlords — a bold idea already adopted in cities like San Francisco and Washington. 

The movement to adopt the policy, called the Community Opportunity to Purchase Act or COPA, began earlier this year during tenant rights workshops hosted by East San Jose nonprofit SOMOS Mayfair. The idea allows qualified nonprofits the first right to purchase a housing property up for sale before anyone else, which could ensure tenants will not be displaced. Once a qualifying property goes on the market and another buyer makes an offer, nonprofits under COPA will have the right to match the offer. 

The city identified a COPA policy as one of its strategies in an anti-displacement plan presented to lawmakers Tuesday. 

“Displacement is truly one of the biggest threats that we have facing our city here in the near future,” said Councilmember Raul Peralez. “I know a lot of people feel it’s inevitable with growth, but it’s not.” 

Similar laws exist in San Francisco and Washington, with varying regulations on how much affordable housing must be provided at each property and how long it takes to purchase a property. San Francisco’s law, passed in 2019, has allowed nonprofits such as community land trusts—founded by community members who acquire and manage land—to purchase properties and prevent low-income tenants from being displaced. 

This could be critical for the South Bay Community Land Trust, the first of its kind in Silicon Valley, which launched in 2019 with a goal of acquiring land and preserving it for affordable housing. But the trust has had trouble identifying plots of land, especially amid the pandemic, even after trying to convince the Santa Clara Valley Water District to donate some of its public land for low-income housing. 

In Washington, which has earmarked $10 million annually for its program, properties must have at least five units for nonprofits to purchase, while San Francisco requires three. The lack of density and multi-unit buildings in San Jose compared to other big cities might be a problem, advocates say. 

“There are a lot of duplexes that exist,” said Gabriel Hernandez, the program coordinator at SOMOS Mayfair. 

SOMOS Mayfair held a workshop with residents earlier this month advocating for a COPA ordinance and plans on holding another late next month. The organization believes the policy would help the many low-income individuals in Latino-heavy East San Jose with high rent. “What we’re doing is having that discussion with the community to see what people think.” 

The group has lobbied the city to draft a COPA ordinance, including potential incentives for property owners to sell to nonprofits, such as tax breaks. They also want to include other properties, such as mobile home parks, in the plan. 

“We’re pleased that the city is pursuing a range of creative tools to respond to these dimensions of our current crisis,” said Mathew Reed, a policy advisor at Silicon Valley at Home, a local affordable housing nonprofit. 

San Jose’s housing department has not yet discussed in detail what a COPA law would look like, or what properties would be eligible under a potential law. The city, however, is set to begin discussing a COPA law early next month through an anti-displacement working group, which includes members of several local community groups. City officials Tuesday flirted with the idea of looking for smaller multifamily buildings for nonprofits to purchase. 

“We’re open to learning from other examples,” said Kristen Clements, a policy manager at the city’s housing department. 

Considering a COPA ordinance is part of the city’s four recommendations to prevent displacement, which include keeping tenants housed during the COVID-19 pandemic through eviction moratoriums, creating a “preference” program for tenants, that sets aside a portion of affordable apartments for low-income applicants who live in high-displacement neighborhoods, and requiring the city’s housing commission to have at least one person who is either currently or formerly homeless. 

The City Council unanimously approved the anti-displacement workplan Tuesday. 

Contact Lloyd Alaban at or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter. 

Read the original article here.