Affordable Housing Week showed it takes a village

Corinne Goodrich

San Mateo County’s Affordable Housing Week, which culminated on Saturday, May 14, with a foreclosure resource fair in Daly City and a tour of affordable housing in downtown Redwood City, highlighted the ongoing critical need for affordable housing by all segments of our community. This remains true despite the economic downturn; two weeks ago, the National Low-Income Housing Coalition named this county the most expensive in the nation for renters. Even as many people struggle to make ends meet, rents are going up.

Through the 10 events scheduled throughout the week, it also became apparent that “it takes a village” to create the affordable housing needed in San Mateo County. Multiple community partners from the public, private and nonprofit sectors collaborate to make housing affordable.

Those partners included Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center, EPA CAN DO, and Peninsula Interfaith Action, which helped organize community workshops on the Bay Area’s new “Sustainable Communities Strategy.” The Housing Endowment and Regional Trust (HEART) of San Mateo County held an executive briefing to highlight its essential bridge financing for affordable developments, and to describe the future of green building. Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson, who is the chair of the HEART Board of Directors has, along with the numerous city and county elected officials present that day, long demonstrated her commitment to affordable housing. These officials and the city and county staff members continue to find creative ways to make it possible for community members to live closer to where they work.

The Mental Health Association of San Mateo County broke ground for housing in Redwood City that will support formerly homeless people with mental illness, while San Mateo County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services held a workshop about the transition from homeless back into housing. Housing that is supported by mental health professionals makes it possible for community members who would otherwise be homeless to become active and contributing members of society.

Mid-Pen Housing opened Peninsula Station, which demonstrates how today’s affordable housing design and services contribute to the entire region.

The National Hispanic Organization of Real Estate Associates (NHORA) presented the Latino Housing Report Card. Though not positive-Silicon Valley gets a “D” for providing housing to Latinos — it demonstrated the need for the Latino community to become part of the leadership and decision-making if Silicon Valley counties are going to prosper in the future.

SamTrans and Greenbelt Alliance teamed with the city of Redwood City for a tour of downtown Redwood City. It gave us a glimpse of how affordable housing and transportation are linked to improve the lives of community members, our cities and the region. We were wowed by Villa Montgomery, an affordable, green development by First Community Housing right on El Camino Real.

At the end of the week, Supervisor Adrienne Tissier hosted a much-needed Foreclosure Workshop in the north county.

And making it all possible was Wells Fargo Bank as the financial sponsor of the week.

Finally, my thanks to Housing Leadership Council board members for providing enthusiastic support for this week’s activities. And, this village owes a tremendous debt to Chris Mohr, executive director of both Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County and HEART, for his patient and persistent quest for affordable housing at all levels in our community. Chris will be moving away from San Mateo County, and he cannot leave without a public acknowledgment of how critical his role has been in bringing together this village, not only in making Affordable Housing Week a success, but in making affordable housing possible in this very expensive area. It takes a village, and we thank Chris for bringing those villagers together.

Corinne Goodrich serves as president of the Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County board of directors. As the strategic development manager for the San Mateo County Transit District, she staffs the Grand Boulevard Initiative in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

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