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.
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?"