Bay Area consortium pledges $500M for affordable homes

Partnership for the Bay's Future aims to fund renter-protection policies and development of low-income housing

Several Peninsula-based nonprofit organizations and companies are part of a new public-private partnership that aims to secure $500 million to help build more affordable housing in the Bay Area, the group announced Thursday.

Known as Partnership for the Bay's Future, the collaboration is being funded by 10 organizations in the philanthropic, business and community-advocacy sectors. The initiative is billing itself as "one of the country's largest investment funds to address the regional affordable housing crisis," according to a press release.

"The housing crisis is the most serious issue facing our region -- one that is making every other challenge harder, particularly for low-income families and people of color," Larry Kramer, president of The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, said in a statement. "This critical effort holds great promise for finding local and regional solutions."

The participating Peninsula-based organizations are the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Facebook, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Silicon Valley Community Foundation and The David and Lucile Packard Foundation. The group -- made up of community and faith leaders, housing advocates, business leaders and philanthropists -- is also supported by the San Francisco Foundation, Genentech, Kaiser Permanente, Ford Foundation and Local Initiatives Support Corporation, according to the press release.

"What has always made the Bay Area so special is its entrepreneurial spirit and its orientation towards progress and justice," said Priscilla Chan, co-founder of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, who is married to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. "Those same qualities can help us build collaborative, thoughtful and new solutions to make housing affordable and accessible for all people who call the Bay Area home."

The partnership will start out with two "breakthrough funds," the Investment Fund and Policy Fund, with a goal of preserving and producing more than 8,000 homes in the next five to 10 years within San Francisco, San Mateo Santa Clara, Alameda and Contra Costa counties. It will also protect up to 175,000 homes over the next five years.

The group aims to tackle the lack of affordable housing that it said has led many middle- and low-income families to leave the region. Today, households with two full-time workers who are making $15 an hour can only afford to live in 5 percent of the region's neighborhoods, the press release states.

The Investment Fund, to be managed by Local Initiatives Support Corporation, is expected to deal with the funding gap that prevents the building and conservation of affordable housing.

The Policy Fund will be dedicated to boosting protections for low-income tenants. It will be led by the San Francisco Foundation and distributed through two programs: "Challenge Grants" and "Breakthrough Grants." So far, it has secured $20 million of its $40 million goal.

Some of the policies will align with the CASA Compact, a regional set of housing-related policies recently established by a partnership between the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG).

The partnership has already unlocked funds for the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation, an Oakland-based nonprofit that expands affordable housing options for renters, among other goals. Offering the development corporation a revolving line of credit, the Partnership for the Bay's Future will ensure that the nonprofit is able to buy properties when they become available. The development corporation anticipates working on six projects five years because of the consortium's funding, the press release states.

"We are encouraged by the promise and partnership this new regional collaboration offers to continue developing affordable housing solutions in the Bay Area," Carol Larson, CEO of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, said in a statement. "As a foundation that has supported Bay Area organizations for over five decades, we are acutely aware of how urgent the need for affordable housing has become — especially for the communities who need it most."

Another priority will be to support and encourage faith communities to use their land to develop affordable housing. Pastor Paul Bains, who is the co-founder of Project WeHOPE, a homeless shelter based in East Palo Alto, pointed out that, after governments and schools, churches are some of the largest landholders in the area.

In a statement, Gov. Gavin Newsom gave his endorsement to the collaborative: "The scope of the housing crisis requires bold action. And it also requires that all sectors come to the table to drive new solutions. ... This multi-sector public-private approach reflects just that -- and will help move our state forward on one of the biggest issues we face."

The partnership, for which investment backing company Morgan Stanley has provided capital, intends to bring on more partners and funders, according to the press release.

Local origins

So how did this all come about?

"It took the threat of a lawsuit," Jennifer Martinez said during a panel discussion on housing following a Thursday press conference announcing the new partnership in San Francisco. Martinez is the chief strategy officer for PICO California, a community organizing network.

She later told The Almanac that the preliminary talks for what would lead to the formation of the "Bay's Future" initiative began when a nonprofit coalition, Envision Transform Build – East Palo Alto, approached Facebook just after the city of Menlo Park approved a development proposal by the company to build two new office buildings and a hotel back in November 2016. Construction on the first of those two buildings was completed in September.

In December 2016, the coalition succeeded in negotiating for an $18.5 million contribution from Facebook dedicated to funding anti-displacement efforts, with $10 million of that designated for East Palo Alto. Later, in August 2017, Facebook announced it would be working with LISC and that it aimed to generate $75 million for affordable housing efforts in Menlo Park and East Palo Alto.

From there, Martinez said, others in the region began to imagine: "What if we could do a private-public approach to this?"


Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Almanac staff writer Kate Bradshaw contributed to this story.

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3 people like this
Posted by Cele Quaintance
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 25, 2019 at 10:48 am

I am both delighted and proud to see this come out of our neighbors and supporters. I have lived in Palo Alto for almost 50 years and have recently been sad to see that our area either has the older residents (me) who got into the market early or the much younger, very wealthy new residents. No nurses (like me) no firefighters, teachers, police and certainly no minimum wage workers can hope to live here. I am hopeful that this initiative will both help people with housing and re-invigorate our communities. Thank you

3 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 25, 2019 at 11:27 am

Annette is a registered user.

Welcome news indeed! THANK YOU to all who are contributing to this and supporting it.

8 people like this
Posted by Dancing In the PA Streets...Right
a resident of another community
on Jan 25, 2019 at 2:38 pm

from the PA Weekly article...
"a goal of preserving and producing more than 8,000 homes in the next five to 10 years within San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda and Contra Costa counties. It will also protect up to 175,000 homes over the next five years."

The Palo Alto NIMBYs are crossing their fingers and/or lighting candles praying...'somewhere in Santa Clara County other than our beloved PA'.

5 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 25, 2019 at 3:23 pm

Lots of hullabaloo here, but hold the cheering and the weeping until they actually got the money and buy the land.

2 people like this
Posted by Root Casue
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 25, 2019 at 10:47 pm

While a great accomplishment indeed, I coming away from this with mixed emotions. The Peninsula is land locked, and so with fixed supply and steady/increasing demand, prices will be high. To then ensure that the right number of below market housing units are available, it requires near acts of God (exampled above). However these efforts are little more than sticking (very expensive) fingers in a leaky dike. At the same time that these measures are being structured, Peninsula city councils are doing nothing to limit increase in commercial office space -- the very thing causing this housing problem. Worse yet, some cities are actively working to bring in more new companies or to encourage and accommodate existing companies to grow. Two two are at odds with the each other.

My hope is that Peninsula City and County leaders will coordinate on this issue and work to reverse their pro-growth modes. The peninsula is choking on traffic and on people. We are overcrowded. Please address the root cause.

14 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 26, 2019 at 6:25 am

mauricio is a registered user.

They are completely misguided. They should re direct their energy to persuade companies to move to areas which need economic growth and have available land and housing. These people behave as if the Bay area can accommodate every person who wants to live in it. They think of the Bay area as a sardine can into which they can squeeze an infinite number of sardines. I noticed that Zuckerberg's wife was involved. She can be productive by persuading her husband to move some operations, and expand elsewhere, along with other tech companies, instead of squeezing in more and more employees into the Bay area.

Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 26, 2019 at 7:24 pm

Confused about preserving “ 175,000 homes that are at risk of being redevoped into more expensive properties.” Daily Post, 1/25/19). Where -
Some percentage of homes of this apparent description likely isn’t worh “saving.” Some percentage is basic construction. We all know tear downs that were well deserved. Sentimental or practical? Earthquake safe to current standards?
There’s lots of opportunity to infill San Jose, without going way out. What we need are MUCH better public transit systems/options.

3 people like this
Posted by bg
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Jan 26, 2019 at 11:18 pm

This is a huge ripoff promulgated by the corruptocrat california senate, the puppets of a concoction of special interests including real estate developers, trade unions and high tech businesses, who have colluded to create ABAG and the MTC, destroy our environment, and subsidize their profits through invisible taxes on our quality of life.

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