Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative Fronts New Bay Area Housing Fund

The philanthropic organization started by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, on Thursday announced a $500 million collaboration to ease the housing crisis in the Bay Area.

The Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative is teaming with other organizations to establish a fund dedicated to affordable housing.

The Partnership for the Bay’s Future, which includes other players such as the Ford Foundation, the San Francisco Foundation and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, may be the most diverse and ambitious affordable housing initiatives the region has seen.

The fund is aiming to build 8,000 new affordable homes and stabilize 175,000 households in the next five to 10 years. But collaboration is key, from philanthropy groups to city governments and private corporations.

The heartbreaking signs of displacement and destitution are woven all over Bay Area streets.

“They have nowhere to sleep at night. They’re sleeping in a car,” Chan said at a Commonwealth Club panel Thursday.

And as Chan acknowledged, victims of the housing crisis come from all spaces and sectors.

“In the school in East Palo Alto, we are having trouble recruiting teachers to live in the area,” she said. “Because they can’t afford it.”

The new plan could provide a change of fate for those feeling the pinch. Fred Blackwell, CEO of the San Francisco Foundation, talked about the sister funds: one dedicated to keeping people in their homes, and one dedicated to acquiring land and building homes.

“It is actually imperative that these two things move together and in concert with one another,” Blackwell said. “And that, frankly, is the exciting thing about what we’re doing and the breakthrough about the conversation.”

Additionally, the effort is using outside-the-box ideas like the one discussed by Maurice Jones, president and CEO of Local Initiatives Support Corp.

“That actually is designed to work with houses of faith,” Jones said. “And to help them take land that they have and take assets that they have and turn it into land that we can use for affordable housing.”

The Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative provided a seed investment of $50 million to help counter early risk.

“So that way, instead of funding the same old projects, we can maybe start funding projects that maybe haven’t been done before,” CZI spokeswoman Catelyn Fox said.

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