Bay Area housing gets $500M boost from local tech, foundations

Mortgage

The Bay Area’s affordable housing stock got a major shot in the arm Thursday, with the launch of a $500 million fund to build and preserve homes for low- and middle-income residents.

The new fund, backed by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the San Francisco Foundation, Facebook, Genentech and others, intends to build or preserve more than 8,000 homes in the Bay Area in the next 5 to 10 years. It’s the latest attempt to stem the affordable housing shortage that’s driving up prices and forcing low and middle-income workers to flee the region.

The move comes on the heels of several other contributions by major tech companies — including a $500 million pledge by Microsoft for housing in the Seattle area earlier this month — as residents and affordable housing advocates demand cash-flush corporations do something about the crisis.

Priscilla Chan, co-founder of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and other partners are scheduled to announce the fund Thursday afternoon at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.

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“What has always made the Bay Area so special is its entrepreneurial spirit and its orientation towards progress and justice. 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,” Chan wrote in a news release. “We are thrilled to be joining this diverse coalition of community and faith leaders, advocates, philanthropies, and businesses to support creative and impactful solutions to the housing crisis.”

The collaboration backing the new fund calls itself the Partnership for the Bay’s Future, and intends to invest $500 million to build new affordable housing and preserve existing units. More than $260 million has been raised so far, including $40 million from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, $5 million from Genentech and $1 million from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

The money will fund projects in San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda and Contra Costa counties, for residents making up to 150% of the local area median income.

The fund will be managed by the Local Initiatives Support Corp., and its organizers hope to start rehabilitating existing developments within the next few months.

In addition, the Partnership for the Bay’s Future is launching a separate fund of $40 million to help Bay Area cities and counties reshape their housing policies. The money may be used, among other things, to help local officials craft just cause eviction ordinances, rental assistance programs and other tenant protections, shape bonds to finance affordable housing or remove the red tape around development by changing zoning laws.

That fund will be run by the San Francisco Foundation, and already has raised almost $20 million — including another $10 million from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, $1.5 million from the San Francisco Foundation, $5 million from Genentech and $1 million from Facebook. The fund managers expect to open applications to Bay Area cities and counties during the first half of 2019, and make its first grant before the end of the year.

Some local affordable housing advocates see Thursday’s announcement as a promising step in the Bay Area’s fight for housing.

“From my perspective, Bay Area tech companies have until now mostly been missing in action on putting their money where their mouth is and creating new affordable housing,” said Matt Schwartz, president and CEO of the California Housing Partnership. “But having Facebook out in front, through Chan Zuckerberg, is a really exciting development and I hope that it will be seen as a challenge by the other tech companies.”

Schwartz, along with other community members, consulted with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative about the new fund before Thursday’s announcement. The California Housing Partnership has received funds from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative in the past.


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