I have been working to strengthen our Bay Area communities for almost two decades, and I’m not sure I can remember a day that felt as productive and hopeful as last Wednesday. I was thrilled to be in the room when Governor Newsom signed the first of a set of 11 bills that will prevent homelessness, protect renters, preserve existing affordable housing, and produce a significant number of new affordable homes in our region.
This great day was no accident, either. It took a lot of hard work by our grantees, tenacious elected officials, community activists, business leaders, and my former boss Gavin Newsom, among others.
Building coalitions of success
I firmly believe that we were successful in passing these important policies because we worked together across sectors and priorities to move this package forward. The bills are centered on the “3Ps” – protecting tenants from being evicted, preserving affordable housing from being torn down, and producing more homes for people of all income levels. This approach helped us to create a broad partnership of support. And I do mean broad. The raucous bill signing included activists from tenants’ rights organizations – such as ACCE, PICO California, and Public Advocates – who fight for affordable housing for people who are struggling to make ends meet every day along with affordable housing developers, represented by the Nonprofit Housing Association of Northern California (NPH), for-profit developers, and folks from the California Apartment Association. Now THAT’S a broad coalition.
The process wasn’t easy. But the willingness of tenant advocacy groups, housing developers, faith leaders, and business interests to come to the table, have productive discussions, and come to agreement on a path forward delivered a moment we can all be proud of. We won new protections for renters and new opportunities to develop affordable housing that will help millions of Californians – especially people of color and folks who are trying to just get by – live in safe homes in communities where they feel a sense of belonging.
As these new laws are put in place, the Foundation and our partners will do our part to ensure that they are implemented swiftly, fairly, and equitably. As California streamlines and accelerates how it produces affordable housing, we must also make sure that we protect tenants from being evicted from their homes. The absolute best way to prevent homelessness is to keep people in their homes.
We are working to help communities of color and communities that have been excluded from the modern economy to build wealth, stay in their homes, and determine their own futures. Many black and brown people have been systematically excluded from the planning and housing decisions that affect their families and their communities. Our job is to make sure that they can meaningfully participate in the decision making that affects them and their futures.
Focusing on regional solutions
Last week, the Governor also signed a bill to establish the Bay Area Housing Finance Authority, which will have the power to both raise and distribute money for affordable housing and for tenant protections across the entire nine-county Bay Area region. This is an extraordinary opportunity to make housing dramatically more equitable.
While this is a hopeful and triumphant moment, I think we all know that our work is not yet done. We will continue to build coalitions of support and ensure that the doors are open for residents of different races and from different places to determine the course of their futures. We will make sure that all our neighbors have a safe, affordable place to call home.
I hope you’ll join me in this work.