Coming together for a livable Bay Area: first Challenge Grant convening

As the Bay Area adjusts to the recent shelter-in-place order to address the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s clear that people’s access to quality housing that they can afford has tremendous impact on our ability as a community to stop the spread of the virus. At the most basic level, how can we be asking folks to shelter in place if they don’t have shelter, or are at risk of losing it? It’s clear that our region’s longstanding housing crisis has collided dangerously with this new public health crisis. The need for affordable, stable housing has never been more clear or more urgent.

The Partnership for the Bay’s Future—a multi-sector collaboration working toward a Bay Area of inclusion and shared prosperity—recently held our first Challenge Grant convening. For the first time, we brought together the Challenge Grant change agents from across the region: local government staff from six cities and one county, community partners at local nonprofits, and mid-career fellows who are boosting their community’s capacity to advance equitable housing policy solutions.

One of the Partnership’s big bets is that we can’t change our current housing system without addressing the policies that govern how we build and manage housing, and we can’t address policy without enhancing the capacity of local government and connecting to grassroots people power. So to kick off this work, the Challenge Grant team spent a day learning from and connecting with one another, laying the foundation for a strong regional network.

Challenge Grant recipients
Our first Challenge Grant cohort gathered March 6, 2020, to share best practices, learn from each other, and launch their housing policy projects.

Deep commitment to the Partnership’s north star of an inclusive, vibrant, and livable Bay Area was clear from the start as each participant shared a person or group of people who motivated them to do this important work. The Challenge Grant fellows presented on their jurisdictions’ policy projects, highlighting areas of potential collaboration and setting up channels for sharing best practices and advice. Many of the grantee groups are working on tenant and community opportunity to purchase acts and on setting up community land trusts, and they talked through some of the common challenges they were seeing and got advice from other communities that had experience with these models.

It was clear that there is so much transformative potential in bringing equitable housing champions together to collaborate and share lessons learned from across the region.

To end on a personal note, this work means a lot to me as someone who was born and raised in the Bay Area and whose immigrant parents found welcome and opportunity here. At the Partnership’s recent press conference, I spoke with Redwood City Mayor Diane Howard, who asked how I’ve managed to stay in the Bay Area for so long, and I told her I’ve just been lucky: I’ve benefited from an unpredictable mix of good timing, privilege, and my parents’ sacrifices.

That’s why I’m proud to be leading the Partnership’s Policy Fund, so that we can make sure that being able to live in this amazing region is an opportunity available to all, not just the fortunate few. I can’t wait to see what this incredible cohort accomplishes over the next two years, and I hope you’ll join me in supporting their efforts.

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