Challenge Grant convening showcases community-driven policy

Hi all! My name is Chris Norman, and I recently joined Partnership for the Bay’s Future as the Oakland Challenge Grant Fellow. It is an honor to join a cohort of seven equity-minded fellows, as well as numerous municipal, community, and philanthropic partners, in a journey to expand housing accessibility in the Bay Area.

My goal is to ensure Oaklanders of all backgrounds can practice autonomy in their housing choices which I believe is a key foundation for wellness. For us to realize this goal, we must ensure sufficient production of deeply affordable housing, protection of at-risk tenants, and preservation our existing affordable stock. As the Oakland Challenge Grant Fellow, I will work with the City of Oakland and a coalition of community partners, the Bay Area 4 All (BA4A) Housing Preservation Table, to advance protection and preservation strategies that will bring us closer to that goal.

This work is deeply personal to me. As a queer Black and Mexican American individual, and as someone born and raised in the Bay Area (San Francisco’s Mission District, specifically), the inaccessibility of stable housing is constitutive of my family’s story. Members of my personal community have struggled with being unsheltered, being evicted from government-subsidized homes, and being forced to move to the region’s exurbs to find affordable housing. These challenges are why I do this work: I want to help create a Bay Area that actively makes space for and supports its residents who are low-income and/or Black, Indigenous, or other People of Color (BIPOC).

I am excited to imagine and co-create alongside my new colleagues, and already had an opportunity to do so at the recent Challenge Grant convening in May. The convening, which occurs quarterly, brings our larger cross-sector network together and learn about the efforts happening in each jurisdiction. Participants are also invited to join in learning sessions and engage with new frameworks through which to do our work.

May’s convening featured three goals: 1) to share progress and challenges in moving protection and preservation policies, 2) to build a common language/framework to support racial equity in housing policies (such as targeted universalism), and 3) to explore reimagining community-driven policymaking.

In the morning session two of my colleagues, Karen Camacho, the East Palo Alto (EPA) Challenge Grant Fellow and Lauren Bigelow, the Palo Alto Challenge Grant Fellow, provided case studies of their efforts-to-date.

Karen highlighted the EPA team’s work around launching a preservation model to acquire, rehabilitate, and redevelop properties; establishing a sustainable funding source for housing preservation, and pursuing a policy to protect local renters and keep them in-place.

Lauren’s presentation focused on renter protections in Palo Alto, a city with one of the highest numbers of affordable housing units in Santa Clara county. Lauren’s presentation demonstrated a need for policy change: 89% of rental housing units in Palo Alto with residents who earn $20,000-$30,000 per year are cost burdened compared to 17% of rental units where residents make $75,000 or more. This disparity clearly demonstrates the need to protect our community’s most vulnerable residents, as they are more likely to face hardship if housing becomes unstable.

In the afternoon session we were joined by Professor john a. powell, Director of the Othering and Belonging Institute in the University of California at Berkeley. Professor powell offered targeted universalism as framework to the group, describing it as more than just eliminating disparities: Targeted universalism seeks to improve outcomes in culturally adept ways for all groups and allows us to create a new reality that eliminates threats (be they health, economic stability, etc.) all together.

Together with our cohort, john situated targeted universalism in the housing policy context. We discussed issues of gentrification and concentrated poverty, and we explored what it would mean to create full neighborhoods with sufficient amenities, regardless of demographic. Such an endeavor would include reevaluating and potentially altering the historically exclusionary structures in place today, such as single-family zoning (which accounts for 85% of all residential zoning in the Bay Area). This perspective provided participants with new common language and theory to approach their collective work.

The initiatives supported by the Challenge Grant will not be easily completed given the magnitude of our wicked problems. While policy change remains a primary goal, we are also interested in exploring the process shifts that must occur as key steps towards larger policy “wins.” Such shifts include deeper and formal integration of community voice in public decision-making and evaluation processes, as well as changes in how departments approach their work to be more inclusive of racial equity goals. Year two of the Challenge Grant evaluation process will focus more on these questions, especially as each jurisdiction continues to define what success looks like for their specific communities and contexts. I am ready to help define and shape what the future of housing looks like in Oakland and the larger Bay Area.

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. 

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.

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 lloyd@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter. 

Read the original article here.

News: Palo Alto explores new policies to help tenants

Rental protection policies have been items of great interest to Palo Alto City Councilmembers for years and are therefore the focus of the Palo Alto Challenge Grant team. The policy package described in the article below came together through months of discussions with renters and service providers, thanks to coordination with community partner SV@Home and new local organization Palo Alto Renters Association (PARA). The renter protection package works to improve access for renters from a variety of different standpoints and is currently being discussed with the Planning and Transportation Commission (PTC), an important stop along the way to City Council discussion planned for summer 2021. This article unpacks some of the discussion held at the last public meeting, during which three policies were reviewed. A continuation of that conversation will be held at today’s (Wednesday, April 28) PTC meeting at 6pm. – Lauren Bigelow, Palo Alto Challenge Grant Fellow

 

Is Palo Alto ready for rent stabilization? City explores new policies to help tenants

Planning commission supports creating survey, expanding city’s program for assistance

by Gennady Sheyner / Palo Alto Weekly

Seeking to address the plight of low-income residents in a city with famously astronomical rents, Palo Alto is considering a wide range of new programs designed to protect and assist tenants facing displacement.

Some of these programs — including, most notably, rental stabilization — have been brought up in the past, only to fizzle in the face of political opposition. Others, including limits on security deposits that landlords can charge and a “fair chance” ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on criminal backgrounds, would be discussed for the first time.

The wide-ranging effort kicked off on Wednesday night, when the city’s Planning and Transportation Commission unanimously endorsed two new initiatives to support renters: establishing a survey program that would allow the city to track its inventory of rental properties and expanding renter relocation assistance, with a particular focus on the “cost-burdened” households — those that spend more than 30% of their income on rent.

The commission split over a third program: expanding protections for renters facing eviction beyond those already included in Assembly Bill 1482, the 2019 legislation that capped rent increases and, in many cases, prohibited property owners from terminating tenancies without just cause. By a 4-3 vote, with Chair Bart Hechtman, Vice Chair Giselle Roohparvar and Commissioner Michael Alcheck dissenting, the commission voted to recommend extending just-cause protections to properties that had been built within the past 15 years as well as to renters who moved into their residences less than a year ago. Both of these categories are currently exempt from the state bill.

Other ideas that are on the table and that the commission plans to debate in the coming months include enacting rent stabilization and providing tenants with a right to counsel when dealing with eviction. The commission plans to discuss these ideas in the coming months before they go to the City Council for review and approval.

The new push to strengthen tenant protection is, in some ways, a revival of a debate that has proceeded in fits and starts since 2017, when three members of the council — Tom DuBois, Lydia Kou and former council member Karen Holman first proposed in a memo that the city consider rent stabilization and other measures to help renters, who make up 45% of the city’s households. The proposals in the memo, which included a cap on rent increases, were ultimately rejected by the council majority, which strongly opposed any new policies that border on rent control. The most vocal opponents of the proposal were former council members Greg Scharff and Adrian Fine, who argued at one hearing that instituting rent stabilization would “reduce housing availability and decrease housing quality.”

The debate grew more heated in 2018, when the three council members — this time, with support from former council member Cory Wolbach — submitted a new memo with a more modest set of reforms, including better enforcement of the city’s requirement for one-year leases and evaluation of stronger renter-relocation assistance. While the council agreed to study these ideas, they once again rejected an attempt by DuBois and others to reintroduce the topic of rent stabilization for further study.

Now, with Scharff and Fine no longer on the council and DuBois’ political camp enjoying a council majority, the topic of rent protection is set to return to the council agenda. Even though the council agreed in 2018 not to even study rent stabilization, the idea is one of seven that had been identified by the city as worth considering.

Lauren Bigelow, a fellow with Partnership for the Bay who is leading Palo Alto’s effort, outlined on Wednesday the seven strategies that her group believes the city should pursue. In the coming months, she and the city’s planning staff plan to conduct more outreach about these policies to property owners and landlords before the topic is expected to return to the council in late summer.

Some of these policies, including rent stabilization and right to counsel, face high hurdles because of, respectively, political division and high costs. But the commission agreed on Wednesday that others could — and should — be enacted as soon as possible.

The proposed survey is at the top of the list. The commission agreed that creating a registry of rental properties — akin to ones already in place in cities such as Mountain View and East Palo Alto — is critical for gathering data before any new initiatives are enacted. The commission also agreed that the city should pay for the survey rather than funding it through a fee that would be assessed to each rental unit.

“The policies that we ultimately come up with in the city need to be narrowly tailored to address the problem,” Hechtman said. “They don’t need to be broadly tailored to make us feel good.”

Commissioner Ed Lauing called the topic of renter assistance “the most important issue for land use in Palo Alto” and noted that protecting renters is “essential to our community.” According to data provided by Bigelow, 27% of the city’s renter households earn less than $50,000 per year, which creates a significant challenge in a city where the average rent is close to $3,000 per month and where about 14% of rental units are deed-restricted as affordable housing.

And while the overall percentage of “cost-burdened” rental households is at 37%, the rate is higher than 70% in every category where the household income falls under $75,000.

“This is about housing affordability and socioeconomic diversity. This has got to be our top priority,” Lauing said.

The city already has a tenant relocation assistance program that requires property owners to provide between $7,000 (for studios) and $17,000 (for apartments with three or more bedrooms) in assistance to households facing eviction. The program, however, only applies to buildings with 50 or more apartments, which make up about 22% of the city’s rental stock. The proposal that the city is evaluating would expand the range of properties that would be subject to this requirement.

While most commissioners supported the goal of the proposed program, both Roohparvar and Alcheck raised concerns about the unintended consequences of enacting new renter protections. Both worried about situations in which a property owner wants to redevelop the property to create more units but is deterred from doing so by policies that make it cost prohibitive — or procedurally difficult — to vacate the property.

Alcheck said he is deeply concerned about the impacts of any programs that can “make the outlook for future housing development even more bleak.”

“But my hope is that we appreciate this notion that as a city we have failed to address a major problem in our community and as a state we failed to address this very same problem,” Alcheck said. “We’re not addressing housing development, we’re not addressing the homeless situation and — in that vacuum — we’re left with one tool that has lots of consequences.”

Hechtman agreed and suggested that as the city moves to expand its requirements for relocation assistance, it should focus on those with low incomes.

“We really need to be cautious when we lower that threshold because we’re talking about multifamily properties that could potentially redevelop with more units,” Hechtman said. “We need to think about, ‘Are we going to create disincentives for a property owner with five-unit buildings to tear it down and create a 10-unit building if we’re going to burden them with these kinds of costs?'”

Prodded by Hechtman and Alcheck, the commission agreed to focus its expanded relocation-assistance programs on households with low or moderate incomes, rather than basing it on the number of apartments at a given property. Commissioner Bryna Chang also pushed back against suggestions that the new policy will deter redevelopment. A property owner who is evicting tenants as part of a redevelopment project should be able to pay for eviction assistance from the proceeds they will likely net from the additional units, as well as from the higher rent that they would likely charge in the newly built property, she said.

“We want redevelopment and we don’t want to lose housing,” Chang said. “But if someone evicts everyone in order to redevelop, they probably will go denser, so it will pay for itself.

 

Read the full article here.

East Palo Alto Challenge Grant Partners are One Step Closer to Creating a “Placekeepers Co-Op” through the Acquisition of the YUCA Building

 

Just last month, YUCA (Youth United for Community Action), a 27-year-old grassroots organization in East Palo Alto focused on social justice and youth empowerment, was on the verge of being displaced from its yellow adobe brick home of 11 years, after the long-time property owner told YUCA staff that he intended to remodel the house and put it on the market for sale.  

With the incredible support from foundations, philanthropists, and private donors, YUCA was able to fundraise the $1.2M needed to acquire the house.  YUCA is now fundraising an additional $500,000 on GoFundMe to provide much-needed rehabilitation and repairs to the main building and its accessory dwelling unit (ADU). 

This fundraising effort fits within the broader vision listed in East Palo Alto’s Partnership for the Bay’s Future Challenge Grant. The Challenge Grants bringlocal changemakerstogether to work on housing policies that protect tenants and preserve existing affordable housing. One of the East Palo Alto Challenge Grant goals is to launch a preservation model centered on a Community Land Trust (CLT) to acquire, rehabilitate, and redevelop properties.  

The East Palo Alto Challenge Grant partners identified the YUCA site at 2135 Clarke Ave2,692 sq ft single-family home property that holds a historical significance in the community as an intergenerational center for organizing, learning, and healingas one of the pilot projects to acquire buildings and retain that building’s affordability under a community land trust 

Challenge Grant partners EPACANDO (East Palo Alto Community Alliance and Neighborhood Development Organization) and PAHALI (Preserving Affordable Housing Assets Longterm, Inc.) community land trust are working with YUCA to complete the acquisition and ensure permanent affordability and community stewardship of the site.  

While EPACANDO has pledged a $250,000 loan toward the purchase of the YUCA site, it has also committed to providing technical assistance for the future production of an additional ADU, for a total of two ADU’s on the site 

EPACANDO has a 30-year track record of helping expand affordable housing and is currently administering the City of East Palo Alto’s below market rate ownership program. EPACANDO’s new CANDO ADU program is helping homeowners get ADUs by offering free ADU lot assessments, financial counseling, and permitting, construction, and leasing support. Three pilot ADUs are now breaking ground under the CANDO ADU program, and a new ADU on the YUCA site could be the next pilot project if enough funding is secured. 

What makes the YUCA ADU pilot project unique is PAHALI’s commitment to keeping the site’s ADU permanently affordable through community stewardship. This site will serve as the inaugural “placekeepers co-op, ultimately comprising more than 20 scattered-site ADUs for cooperative shareholding members 

PAHALI is a 25-year-old community land trust whose mission is placekeeping for local placekeepers; serving the region and focusing on East Palo Alto. “Pahali” is a Swahili word that means “place.” The name is an intentional reference to African-American roots of the community land trust movement in the United States and to the African-American leadership of the establishment of self-governance for East Palo Alto residents.   

“Black and indigenous communities have already identified community stewardship as a vision for community healing and prosperity, so it is important for us to listen and act on these teachings,” said Ofelia Bello, Youth United for Community Action Executive Director and PAHALI Board Chair.   

To that end, PAHALI aims to address the barriers to homeownership by holding land in a community land trust and conveying affordable housing to a cooperative of placekeepers of East Palo Alto. These placekeepers include low-income, multiracial, multi-ethnic, and multi-generational East Palo Alto residents who are facing housing instability and who would greatly benefit from becoming stewards of their own community.

One of these placekeepers is Leonora Martinez, whose story has been widely shared and illustrates the role community land trusts can play in keeping residents rooted and civically engaged in East Palo Alto. Leonora has been able to develop her leadership skills serving on the PAHALI board. 

The scattered-site ADU placekeepers co-op” pilot that closely couples the community land trust and youth leadership development may be the first of its kind in the Bay Area.  

A project of this magnitude, however, will require enough flexible acquisition capital to pay for other rapid-response land acquisitions, as well as enough gap permanent financing to keep the land affordable if it must be acquired at near-market price 

In the November 2020 election, East Palo Alto Challenge Grant partners and local community leaders attempted to pass a hotel tax to fund affordable housing acquisition, redevelopment, and rehabilitation. Although the attempt fell just short of the two-thirds threshold needed to pass, advocates are not losing hope to bring this back to the voters 

In the meantime, East Palo Alto Challenge Grant partners are appealing to private funders to help with the acquisitions.

The YUCA site will serve as the first, but not the last, of this “placekeepers co-op” in East Palo Alto. It honors both YUCA and PAHALI’s missions to ensure that homegrown leadership continues to help steward the present and future of East Palo Alto, by putting youth at the forefront.  

With this partnership, YUCA is proving that youth are not just the promise of the future, but all the possibilities of the present,” Bello said. 

Funders like the Grove Foundation, the San Francisco Foundation, and several individuals, family foundations, and community foundations have identified the tremendous need for creating affordable homeownership opportunities in communities impacted by our history of racist housing and land use laws. One of these communities is East Palo Altowhich currently houses a majority of residents who are low-income, people of color facing high housing cost burdensMost importantly, they are seeing the importance of youth empowerment in the housing and community ownership movement. 

Community land trusts, and the placekeepers co-op in particular, show the power of collaboration and community over the long haulThe San Francisco Foundation is proud to support this work and the possibilities this pilot represents said Aysha Pamukcu, Policy Fund Initiative Officer for the Partnership for the Bay’s Future. 

After all, intergenerational stewardship of land requires intergenerational leadership development.