Build a Stronger Future: Recommendations for local housing response to COVID-19

Today I find myself asking the same questions I last asked 12 years ago. It was May of 2008, and I was the Staff Director for thenCouncilmember Sam Liccardo for the City of San JoseThe economy was spiraling out of control and the housing market had crashed. The questions I was asking then are the same ones I find myself grappling with today: 

  1. How do we triage what needs to be addressed first and stop the bleeding? 
  2. How do we prevent homelessness due to this crisis? 
  3. How do we position ourselves to get state and federal resources? 
  4. What do we need to do to come out stronger than we are now? 

Since that time, I have worked in multiples sectors that showed me the power and importance of a cross-sector response, most recently as a Senior Policy Advisor for Sam Liccardo, now Mayor of the City San JoseWe need a response that envisions a future that is better for everyone, where each person has an affordable place to call home, and where everyone feels that they belong.    

Before the pandemic, we were already in a housing crisis. The housing shortage was caused by a variety of factors:  

  • Discriminatory policies of the past 
  • Laws that make it hard to build new homes, preserve existing homes, or protect tenants 
  • The increasingly high cost of building new homes.  

The structural problems we had before COVID-19 put safe, stable housing out of reach for so many people in the Bay Area — and that has put us all at risk. A stronger future means a Bay Area where everyone can afford to live. 

How do we seize the moment and build a stronger future? 

Cities need to hire more staff now!

In my experience leading response efforts for thEbola epidemic in West Africa and Liberia, Super Storm Sandy in the Northeast, and the wildfires of Northern California, I learned that State and Federal funding is limited and is often firstcome, firstserve. Although it might be counter intuitive to spend money to hire staff when cities are projecting significant budget shortfalls, our local governments need to be ready to make full use of all State and Federal resources. This means hiring the staff needed to apply for grants; document and provide proof of payment for labor, equipment , and supplies; and convening the community to ensure that equity is at the center of community plans. 

To put a finer point on the importance of equitycentered community convening, we know that the community will be better served if those most impacted are at the tableTheir voice is critical for deciding what they need and how best to respond. If the plan works for those with the most at stake, it will work for everyone and lead us to a stronger future together. 

Get projects shovel-ready

Cities can work smarter by investing in technology and innovations that accelerate the affordable housing development pipeline.  Cities have demonstrated how quickly they can adapt to an environment that does not allow for inperson meetings.  

Let’s not waste this opportunity to learn from the technology-driven adaptations we’ve made while sheltering in place for plan review and inspections. Critically evaluate old practices and traditions and institute new processes and policies that use technology for more efficient and effective inspections. Cities should also establish Development Action Teams that can quickly respond and explain services offered and fee structures; reviewing processes; discussing permits; providing access to financing, technical, employment and training resourcesand responding to specific questions. This will create a strong pipeline of shovelready projects that have completed pre-development activities and have the necessary approvals to jumpstart new project construction. 

Turn immediate short-term responses into long term assets

As the adage goes, we should never waste a crisis. We have a short period of time to be aggressive and to build or acquire emergency housing to both address the needs of the COVID19 pandemic and the housing and homeless crises that existed before the pandemic hitCities need to review how State and Federal changes in building and planning permits, procurement, and environmental review (CEQA) can accelerate affordable housing production. Solicit faith organizations, schools, hospitals, transportation agencies, and water districts for available land and buildings that can be used to meet the public health needs of our community. Use State and Federal funding to quickly renovate and build on that land in a way that will preserve it for long term affordable housing. 

Learn from the 2008 Great Recession and do not return to normal

The COVID-19 crisis has exposed how critical housing is for our communities. We should be looking forward to how we build a stronger Bay Area. A Bay Area that is just, affordable, and inclusive so we can recover and thrive — and be prepared for any future emergencies.  

We can’t afford to go back to the way things were — because the way things were included inequities in health, in economic opportunity, and in access to affordable housing. We must build a stronger community and ensure that recovery leaves no one behind. 

Lastly, in a nation and region that values our diversity, we must remain united as we face what lies ahead of us. Solving the challenges we face, at the scale that they have come to us, means using our diversity as a strength to put more power into creating the future we want. That means working to build a stronger Bay Area that moves all of us forward and where affordable housing is a reality for all. 

At the Partnership for the Bays Future, we believe that a stronger future requires investing in building affordable homes, sustaining affordability where it already exists, and supporting policy changes that will lead to more affordable homes and greater protections for renters. 

As we plan for our future, I hope that we will all hold the following reflections from the Great Recession to guide us: 

  1. Nothing should go back to normal 
  2. Normal wasn’t working 
  3. If we go back to the way things were, we will have lost the lesson 
  4. We can rise up and do better 

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Celebrating our first year

On Tuesday, February 4, 2020, we celebrated the first anniversary of the Partnership for the Bay’s Future and shared the achievements of our first year.

Hear from CZI Director of Housing Affordability Caitlyn Fox

At the event we announced the recipients of the Partnership’s first-ever “Challenge Grants” to seven Bay Area local governments and non-profit partner organizations that are developing innovative housing policies. As part of the Challenge Grant award, each grantee jurisdiction has been matched with a mid-career fellow. The fellows will provide needed capacity and expertise to accelerate solutions, and grantees will have access to technical assistance and expert consultants to help them implement policy changes identified in the grant proposals.


“To us, this initiative signifies a commitment to building community power across the Bay, where the voices, the experiences, and the leadership of the people who are most affected by the lack of affordable housing and displacement can advance policy solutions. Solutions that they know will have tangible impact on their lives.”
—Camille Llanes-Fontanilla, Executive Director, SOMOS Mayfair

 


Challenge Grant Recipients

  • Alameda County and Resources for Community Development
    Policy project: proactive enforcement of older rental housing stock and funding a local Community Land Trust
  • City of Berkeley and East Bay Community Law Center
    Policy project: giving tenants the opportunity to purchase their homes and a local housing preference policy
  • City of East Palo Alto and EPA CAN DO
    Policy project: giving tenants and community groups the opportunity to purchase currently affordable housing and develop a Community Land Trust
  • City of Oakland and the Bay Area for All Preservation Table
    Policy project: racial equity impact analysis of existing housing programs and policy improvements based on this analysis
  • City of Palo Alto and SV@Home
    Policy project: renter protection ordinance updates, relocation assistance for renters who are displaced, and strengthening enforcement measures
  • City of Redwood City and the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County
    Policy project: evaluating newly enacted renter protection measures and working to preserve affordability in multi-unit buildings
  • City of San Jose and SOMOS Mayfair
    Policy project: create a local preservation ordinance, assess community housing ownership models, and develop tenant preference policies for affordable housing
Hear from San Jose Housing Director Jacky Morales-Ferrand


Bay’s Future Fund

We were also proud to announce at the event that the Partnership’s investment arm, the Bay’s Future Fund, has commitments in place that will allow it to reach its three-year investment goal of $500 million in just one year. The Bay’s Future Fund has garnered commitments from a spectrum of investors and partners who have pledged resources, including Facebook, Morgan Stanley, CZI, First Republic Bank, San Francisco Foundation, Genentech, Silicon Valley Community Foundation and others. LISC, serving as fund manager, is partnering with Capital Impact Partners and the Corporation for Supportive Housing to co-invest additional resources.

Hear from LISC CEO Maurice A. Jones

To date, the Bay’s Future Fund has closed seven loans totaling nearly $30 million that will produce or preserve more than 800 units of housing, 97 percent of which are affordable to households earning less than 80 percent of Area Median Income, and providing shelter for more than 1800 individuals. These investments leverage an additional $100 million in funding from other sources. The transactions are supporting a range of housing strategies, including permanent supportive housing, co-living spaces, senior housing and housing that is affordable by design. Projects include new construction, renovation, and preservation.

Rev. Michael Smith of the McGee Avenue Baptist Church spoke about the investment his church received from the Bay’s Future Fund to turn a vacant property owned by the church into eight new affordable homes.


“When we color the need for affordable housing, don’t color it as black or brown. Color it with pain. It’s not enough until we all come to the table. We will continue to make a difference as long as we believe we can.”
—Rev. Michael Smith, Pastor, McGee Avenue Baptist Church

 

 


 

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Partnership for the Bay’s Future Marks One-Year Anniversary: Public-Private Partnership Exceeds Initial $500 Million Goal to Preserve, Produce, and Protect Affordable Housing

The Partnership for the Bay’s Future Awards First “Challenge Grants” to Seven Bay Area Cities & Counties Leading Innovative Housing Efforts and $30 Million in Loans to Developers Producing and Preserving Affordable Homes

REDWOOD CITY, CALIFORNIA, 11:30 a.m., February 4, 2020

Bay Area elected officials, community, faith, and business leaders, and philanthropic funders marked the first anniversary of the Partnership for the Bay’s Future by announcing  the recipients of the Partnership’s first-ever “Challenge Grants” to seven Bay Area local governments and nonprofit partner organizations that are developing innovative housing policies. The Partnership also announced commitments that will allow it to reach its $500M investment goal ahead of schedule and has already closed seven loans to entities building new affordable housing or preserving existing affordable homes.

The Partnership for the Bay’s Future is a unique cross-sector effort to tackle housing issues in the Bay Area with a dual-pronged approach: supporting policies that preserve and produce affordable housing and help protect renters through its Policy Fund, and directly investing in projects that will create more affordable homes for people of all backgrounds and races through its investment arm, the Bay’s Future Fund. The Partnership launched in 2019 with the ambitious goals of protecting 175,000 households over five years and preserving and producing more than 8,000 homes over the next decade in San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda, and Contra Costa counties.

“The housing crisis requires bold action on multiple fronts and it requires that all sectors come to the table to drive new solutions—the government, the private sector, philanthropies, advocates, and faith leaders,” said California Governor Gavin Newsom. “The Partnership for the Bay’s Future and its multi-sector public-private approach reflects that—and will help move our state forward on one of the biggest issues we face.”

“All Californians deserve a place they can call home, where they feel a sense of belonging in their community, and where they can build a better future for themselves and their families regardless of their race or zip code,” said San Francisco Foundation CEO Fred Blackwell. “The Partnership for the Bay’s Future enables Bay Area communities to help residents live in homes they can afford through its focus on local policy change and investment in building and preserving affordable homes, as well as protecting renters.”

Challenge Grant Recipients: Protecting Renters and Preserving Affordable Homes

The Partnership’s first group of Challenge Grant recipients were on hand for today’s anniversary event. The grantees are local government entities and community organizations working to advance policy solutions to protect renters and preserve existing affordable housing:

  • Alameda County and Resources for Community Development
  • City of Berkeley and East Bay Community Law Center
  • City of East Palo Alto and the East Palo Alto Community Alliance and Neighborhood Development Organization (EPA CAN DO)
  • City of Oakland and the Bay Area For All (BA4A) Preservation Table
  • City of Palo Alto and SV@Home
  • City of Redwood City and Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County
  • City of San Jose and SOMOS Mayfair

Proposed policies are an innovative collection of approaches to the region’s housing problems, including new systems to provide renters and communities with the right to purchase affordable homes before they are sold to outside investors, ensure county-wide protections for renters, and establish new approaches to building community wealth. As part of the Challenge Grant award, each grantee jurisdiction has been matched with a mid-career fellow. The fellows will provide needed capacity and expertise to accelerate solutions, and grantees will have access to technical assistance and expert consultants to help them implement policy changes identified in the grant proposals.

Investing in Affordable Homes

The Partnership’s Bay’s Future Fund has garnered commitments from a spectrum of investors and partners who have pledged resources, including Facebook, Morgan Stanley, CZI, First Republic Bank, San Francisco Foundation, Genentech, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and others. LISC, serving as fund manager, is partnering with Capital Impact Partners and the Corporation for Supportive Housing to co-invest additional resources. As one of the nation’s largest affordable housing investment funds, the Bay’s Future Fund is designed to address the affordable housing crisis in the Bay Area with flexible, innovative financial products.

“Investors are connecting their capital to their values in order to make Bay Area housing more affordable and anchor economic opportunity throughout the region,” said LISC president and CEO Maurice A. Jones. “And, this is just the beginning. We have a robust pipeline of development projects, a committed lineup of local partners, and a diverse group of investors from health care, finance, technology, and philanthropy—all focused on ways to positively impact the housing outlook for families and to keep communities competitive.”

To date, the Bay’s Future Fund has closed seven loans totaling nearly $30 million that will produce or preserve more than 800 units of housing, providing shelter for 1800 individuals, 97 percent of which are affordable to households earning less than 80 percent of Area Median Income. These investments leverage an additional $100 million in funding from other sources. The transactions are supporting a range of housing strategies, including permanent supportive housing, co-living spaces, senior housing, and housing that is affordable by design. Projects include new construction, renovation, and preservation.

“The Partnership for the Bay’s Future is uniquely positioned not only to bring flexible capital to the table to substantially grow the number of  affordable homes in the region, but also to champion policies that will both increase housing and protect vulnerable renters,” said Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s Director of Housing Affordability, Caitlyn Fox. “While we’ve made notable progress, the work has just begun. The future of the Bay Area depends on collaborative efforts to ensure that people of all backgrounds and income levels can live, work, and thrive here.”

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Partnership for the Bay’s Future

Launched in early 2019 after more than a year of conversations with community and faith leaders, housing experts, elected officials, nonprofit and for-profit developers, business leaders, and residents, the Partnership focuses on advancing a more inclusive and equitable future for our region by solving its interconnected challenges: housing, transportation, and economic opportunity. The Partnership’s affordable housing efforts center around two key funding components. The first is the Bay’s Future Fund, managed by Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), one of the largest nonprofit community development financial institutions in the country. The fund was designed to address the funding gap that limits the ability of mission-aligned developers and other interested entities to obtain the capital necessary to create quality, affordable homes. Simultaneously, the Policy Fund, under the stewardship of the San Francisco Foundation, provides grants to Bay Area cities and counties, and their community partners, to enact local policies that protect renters and preserve and produce affordable housing.

The Partnership was founded with the initial support of the San Francisco Foundation, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Ford Foundation, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Facebook, Genentech, Kaiser Permanente, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Stupski Foundation and Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

Additional information about the Partnership for the Bay’s Future, including file photography for media use, can be found here.

Descarge aquí el comunicado de prensa en español.

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Request for Proposals: Learning & Evaluation

The San Francisco Foundation seeks a qualified consultant(s) and/or firm(s) to evaluate the Partnership for the Bay’s Future. Specifically, the Foundation seeks proposals to initiate a developmental evaluation of the Challenge Grants for Housing Protection and Preservation, a program initiated through the Partnership’s Policy Fund. Proposals should include (1) refinement of the Policy Fund’s learning questions, (2) support for rapid learning among Challenge Grant fellows and jurisdiction and the Partnership’s advisory committee and key stakeholders, and (3) the introduction, passage, and implementation of transformative policies that promote tenant protections and the preservation of affordable housing.

We seek partners who share our commitment to advancing racial equity within the region. Therefore, we ask that proposals indicate how racial equity and economic inclusion will be centered in the evaluation design, execution, analyses, and dissemination of learnings.

See the full RFP