Amie Fishman is worried. She has been an advocate for affordable housing for nearly 25 years, yet she has never experienced a moment like the one we are in right now.
Amie is also a long time resident of Oakland, where housing costs are driving residents that have lived in the East Bay for generations out of the communities they have long called home.
“There is a dangerous idea that if you let the housing market do its thing that it will take care of the needs of low-income and working people, and even the homeless, and that’s just not how the market works,” Amie explained.
“You don’t ride the wave and watch it resettle. This is a tsunami and it is unprecedented. Once people are driven out, they just can’t afford to come back. We are particularly losing communities of color, and the rich history and culture that make the Bay Area our thriving home.”
As the Executive Director of the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California (NPH), Amie and her team, along with partner organizations like East Bay Housing Organizations, recognized that now is the time to act to ensure safe, affordable housing for East Bay residents.
They wanted to build upon the momentum of Proposition A in San Francisco, a $310 million bond to build affordable homes for low- and middle-income people. It passed with over 74% of San Francisco voters in November 2015 demonstrating strong support for public investment in affordable housing.
Amie came to the San Francisco Foundation for support to extend this momentum to Alameda County. As Amie explains, “The foundation provided us with the early funds we needed to do voter data analysis, engage community stakeholders, and grow a broad base of support on this issue.”
Amie and her team got to work partnering with Supervisors Wilma Chan and Keith Carson, determining the best way to address the crisis in Alameda County in time for the fall ballot. The Board of Supervisors responded by holding eight town hall meetings, six work sessions and two hearings. With extensive outreach, more than 800 people participated and shared testimony, and they worked with a host of community leaders and decision makers to advocate for a housing bond that reflected the community’s needs.
This June, the Alameda County Supervisors voted unanimously to put a $580 million bond on the November 2016 ballot. If the bond measure passes, it could bring 8,500 affordable homes to families in Alameda County. However, there is still a long road ahead to ensure that the bond passes in November. While Amie says that presidential elections guarantee a higher voter turnout, the measure will require two-thirds approval to pass. This year will also feature a long list of state and local ballot measures, and Amie is aware of the significant challenges of educating voters about specific initiatives and encouraging them to vote for “down ballot” measures.
“It is our hope that elected officials, policy makers, business leaders, and voters will join us in supporting safe, affordable housing for all Bay Area residents and to work together to ensure that these measures pass in November.”
When it recently announced its grantmaking strategy, which seeks to advance racial and economic equity in the Bay Area, The San Francisco Foundation highlighted the need to make sure that housing was a central feature of the work. “At the San Francisco Foundation we believe that a decent home is the cornerstone of opportunity, and we know that far too many people do not have access to that opportunity,” said Fred Blackwell, CEO of the San Francisco Foundation. “We are working with Amie and a coalition of nonprofits, elected officials, faith leaders, and community members to ensure that we can make more affordable homes available to people who are struggling to make ends meet so we can maintain the vibrant, diverse communities we know and love in the Bay Area.”
“There is no one single solution,” said Amie, “but this is a major part of a broader strategy to make sure that our residents can continue to stay and thrive.” NPH also played a key role in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. Their Board of Supervisors recently voted to place initiatives to fund new affordable housing on their November 2016 ballots. “It is our hope that elected officials, policy makers, business leaders, and voters will join us in supporting safe, affordable housing for all Bay Area residents and to work together to ensure that these measures pass in November.”
Read more about our strategy and efforts to anchor communities.