On May 6, community members, nonprofit organizations, and elected officials gathered to listen to resident South Bay housing advocates share their experiences and advice on mobilizing their communities.
The panelists included Kelsey Banes (South Bay YIMBY), JR Fruen (Cupertino for All), Sue Serrone (Livable Sunnyvale), and Suds Jain (Santa Clara Community Advocates). Kiyomi Honda Yamamoto of Greenbelt Alliance moderated the conversation. The event was co-hosted with SV@Home as part of Affordable Housing Week. Panelists talked about how they became involved with their groups, the challenges they face in their cities, and opportunities for smart growth on the local and state levels.
The discussion started with panelists sharing personal stories of how they became South Bay housing advocates. Some panelists had family members who were unable to afford housing in the Bay Area or faced obstacles to finding housing themselves. Others saw childhood friends having to move away due to the cost of living, or work with vulnerable communities who face tremendous impacts from the lack of affordable options.
All four South Bay housing advocate groups formed out of a need to oppose the resistance to new housing in many cities. Panelists discussed how their groups had grown their networks through sharing informational newsletters, holding educational events and candidate forums, and receiving support from local non-profits.
Coalition building was a big focus on the night. Community leaders emphasized the importance of building broader networks for housing advocacy. This fosters growth and education while creating a stronger regional voice. Panelists and attendees were enthusiastic and hopeful that the local organizations would encourage city leadership around the region to work collaboratively on housing solutions.
The community leaders also shared thoughts on their day to day challenges, including new regional and statewide bills and legislation. The potential impact of those policies reemphasizes the importance of engaging in conversations with neighbors, city staff, and elected officials. The discussion ended with advice to the audience: “There is no barrier to entry in the conversation on housing – resident activists have the ability to shape the future of housing in their cities, and everyone is welcome.”
Photo: Nikita Sinha