The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Announces New Funding to Protect, Preserve, and Produce Housing in California

Oct 2, 2019

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A collaborative, multi-pronged approach is needed to address the housing crisis in California

REDWOOD CITY, CALIF. — Today, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative announced a wave of new funding — including grants and investments — to organizations on the frontlines of the housing movement in California. Across the state, these groups are working toward the protection, preservation, and production of housing, so that people of all income levels and backgrounds can live, work, and thrive in the communities they call home.

Housing is one of the most urgent issues in California today. In the Bay Area specifically, demand far outpaces supply. From 2011-2015, the region added half a million jobs but built only 65,000 new dwellings, or one unit of housing for every eight jobs created.

At the same time, costs have skyrocketed — for owners, renters, and builders alike. Today half of all Bay Area renters are now rent-burdened, and low-income Black, Latinx, and Native American renters are the most likely to pay a greater percentage of their income on rent. More and more, families have to decide between basic necessities like food, transportation, and healthcare, and paying their rent or mortgage. In the most extreme cases, people are forced to leave their communities entirely or even live on the street or in temporary shelters.

This is an extremely complex challenge that no single organization or approach can solve alone. That’s why CZI collaborates with and supports a growing number of organizations, initiatives, and community-led efforts through grantmaking, policy and advocacy work, research, and technology. We seek to help strengthen and unite groups working on solutions, and to ensure that flexible capital and resources are available to the field. Recently, we supported efforts across “The Three P’s”:

Protection: Efforts to keep tenants and homeowners in their existing housing 

  • The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) Action is a grassroots community organization working with more than 15,000 members across California. It’s dedicated to raising the voices of everyday Californians, neighborhood by neighborhood, to build the community power needed to win policies and programs that support a just and equitable society. ACCE Action is a multi-issue organization that works on a range of issues including education, health care, criminal justice, infrastructure development, and tax equity, though are perhaps most well known for their housing justice work.
  • Eviction Lab built the first nationwide database of evictions to help protect tenants and inform housing policy. Their work has already generated robust conversation at all levels of government and state policy reform. CZI supports the Lab’s ongoing effort to expand, analyze, and apply the database to policy challenges.
  • JustFix.nyc builds technology for tenants and organizers fighting displacement. Their web and SMS tools allow tenants to request repairs from their landlords, address wrongful evictions, and even converts photos of apartment issues into formats that are legally accepted by courts. They also use public data to map landlord portfolios and spot patterns. CZI’s support will help bring the New York-based service to tenants in California.

Preservation: Efforts to keep individual units affordable

  • California Community Land Trust Network is a membership-led peer-to-peer forum for California-based community land trusts. Collectively, the Network stewards permanently affordable homes and community facilities housing thousands of Californians and represents well over $100,000,000 of community assets.
  • The Bay Area Regional Health Inequity Initiative (BARHII) is a coalition of the San Francisco Bay Area’s eleven public health departments committed to advancing health equity. CZI supports their work to keep homes affordable, strengthen community and health leadership around tenant protections, and advance the development of collective ownership models that ensure housing remains affordable for future generations.
  • The Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County is a membership organization that works with partners to preserve and expand the range and supply of adequate, accessible, and affordable housing for residents and workers of San Mateo County.

Production: Efforts to increase housing supply for all income levels 

  • indieDwell is a new company based in Idaho that produces affordable modular housing.  It aims to help increase equitable access to housing and produce more units to close the widening gap between supply and demand. CZI’s Donor Advised Fund invested in indieDwell to support their national expansion, including to California.
  • The SF Housing Accelerator Fund innovates smart approaches that put public, private, and philanthropic money to work to expand the supply of affordable housing in San Francisco. In just three years, SFHAF has raised and deployed over $100 million to fund the preservation and construction of 433 permanently affordable units in San Francisco. CZI is supporting impact analysis work for its Homes for the Homeless Fund, a project with Tipping Point Community to deliver 145 units for individuals experiencing homelessness.
  • California Coalition for Rural Housing is a statewide coalition working in the Central Valley and other agricultural, tribal, and rural areas on behalf of low-income housing developers, advocates, and local residents to make the case for housing improvements. It sees housing preservation and affordable production as essential to building strong, inclusive rural communities. They are also one of the few groups advocating for rural housing at the state level and work closely with other coalitions at the federal level.

CZI also supports the 3P’s Coalition, a group working on a discrete, comprehensive legislative package within the 3P’s framework to address the crisis through state policy reform.

While many of these groups have strengths or priorities within protection, preservation or production, it’s important to note that nearly all of them work in some capacity across all three. Historically there has been a perceived divide between, for example, those who build and those who protect. However, this year we saw groups — like our partners at ACCE and California Yimby — collaborate to support regional and state-wide policies in both production AND protection. CZI is proud to support organizations that are championing a truly comprehensive approach to close that divide.

“The housing challenge in California can only be tackled when multiple solutions are explored simultaneously and collaboratively,” said Ruby Bolaria-Shifrin, Housing Affordability Manager at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. “By taking a multi-pronged approach we can begin to make change at scale to halt the crisis, get people off the streets, give our children safe places to learn and grow, help businesses retain a competitive workforce, and maintain the vibrant diversity that our home state is known for.”

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About the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s Housing Program:

Founded by Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg in 2015, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) is a new kind of philanthropy that’s leveraging technology to help tackle some of the world’s toughest challenges — from eradicating disease, to improving education, to reforming the criminal justice system. Across three core Initiative focus areas of Science, Education, and Justice & Opportunity, we’re pairing engineering with grantmaking, impact investing, policy, and advocacy to help build an inclusive, just, and healthy future for everyone. Core to this work is the belief that access to safe, affordable, and accessible housing is essential to community stability and shared prosperity. CZI has partnered with numerous organizations working on innovative solutions in the housing sector, such as: the Terner Center for Housing Innovation, Landed, TechEquity, Eviction Lab, and The Kelsey. CZI has also supported work on ballot measures related to housing, like Props 1 & 2 in California, and launched a public-private partnership (The Partnership for the Bay’s Future) in 2019 – a $540 million commitment to housing in the Bay Area.