An East Palo Alto nonprofit group that helps thousands of low-income residents with housing and immigration issues will receive a three-year $3.1 million grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the initiative announced on Monday.
David Plouffe, president of policy and advocacy, announced in a Facebook post that the philanthropic Initiative would begin supporting Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto and the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at University of California, Berkeley. Both organizations help affordable housing challenges.
The Initiative was founded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan.
"Ensuring that people of all income levels can live and work in our communities is important to advancing human potential and promoting equal opportunity, the mission that guides our work. In the Bay Area, few challenges are greater than the need for affordable housing. It’s an issue affecting many of the local schools we work with, where too many students and their families are struggling to stay in their homes and neighborhoods, and recruiting and retaining top teachers is a challenge," Plouffe said.
Community Legal Services has been working to help people stay in their communities, particularly in East Palo Alto and East Menlo Park, where residents are rapidly becoming displaced by the high cost of housing and market speculation.
The grant will help Community Legal Services serve an additional 2,500 residents in East Palo Alto, Belle Haven, and North Fair Oaks facing threats to community stability by displacement and to continue to work with local organizations such as Faith in Action and Youth United for Community Action (YUCA) to find longer-term regional housing solutions. Community Legal Services will provide funding from the grant to Faith in Action and YUCA to increase grassroots advocacy and to preserve and build affordable housing.
The organization will also work to help residents collect unpaid wages and improve their job prospects, which impact their ability to pay mortgages and rents; keep more families in their homes as rents increase so they won't have to leave good jobs and Bay Area schools; and expand the housing, economic advancement, and immigration programs by hiring five new full-time attorneys and additional paralegal support.
East Palo Alto and Belle Haven in Menlo Park have seen half of their long-term residents leave in the past five years, Plouffe noted.
"This is the kind of on the ground policy work that we will be doing more of in the months and years to come," he said.
The Initiative is also granting The Terner Center $500,000. The center works to increase the supply and lower the cost of housing in high cost regions; expand access to quality rental housing and home ownership; use housing as a tool to achieve sustainability and; assess the impact of major housing policies and programs.
The grant will help fill research gaps and test new ideas to develop long-term solutions.
"Our gift will support their work to continue their strong research to help guide our region towards evidenced-based solutions," Plouffe said.
"While we recognize that there is no single approach to solving the Bay Area’s housing crisis, it’s clear that we need to both increase the availability of affordable housing, and help families stay in their homes and neighborhoods. These grants will support those working to help families in immediate crisis while supporting research into new ideas to find a long-term solution -- a two-step strategy that will guide much of our policy and advocacy work moving forward," he said