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Rooting Our Work in Equity: Reflections on the Resurrection of the Stuart Street Apartments

Quency L. Phillips

Recent news on the Bay’s Future Fund (BFF) was big: Facebook pledged to make a $150 million investment into the Fund, which is managed by LISC. While the Facebook investment will significantly impact LISC’s ability, along with our partners, to reach our goal of raising $500 million for the BFF–the largest fund created by LISC to date–we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that our ambition is not as much connected to the size of the BFF as it is to its impact. And that impact is squarely centered on equitable development. In the Bay Area, that means addressing displacement of communities of color and low income residents.

My role with the BFF is to engage at the ground level with community stakeholders in the five county region where the Fund is active. I recently had the opportunity to speak on behalf of LISC at a groundbreaking for the first deal to close in the BFF. The Stuart Street Apartments, owned by the McGee Avenue Baptist Church, are being renovated in partnership with the Bay Area Community Land Trust. Funding for this project is coming from the City of Berkeley, LISC, and the BFF. This is a new innovative loan product designed to assist faith and community-based organizations in making affordable housing development a possibility on their own land.

Pastor Michael A. Smith captured the emotion of the moment when he said: “We are so overwhelmed that McGee Avenue Baptist Church is the first site [financed by the Partnership]. You will come to us, and you will see a model for redevelopment – for partnership – and the way that we can bring communities together.”

Church member and Deacon Charles E. Crawford, Sr. said, “We know that we’re trying to make the community better, and I know it will make it better. Because these people won’t have to go through the agony and defeat that we had to when we were coming along. And to me, this is one of the greatest things.”

This is what the BFF is about. We aim for moments like this, where our outcomes align with our intentions. With the growing reputation of being the BFF for the Bay Area, and with the opportunity to present a scalable approach to equity in the community development world, Bay Area LISC is working with many other faith-based organizations and developers to help solve the regional affordability crisis.

Annie Donovan, LISC’s new COO and the acting Executive Director for Bay Area LISC, said, "This is a powerful story about the kind of community transformation we are seeking.  We’re aiming for every deal the BFF makes to be this impactful on the things that matter most to us – the long term stability of a community, a culture, and more broadly shared prosperity."

The success of the Stuart Street Apartments project is only the beginning. In an effort to further provide faith and community based organizations with the tools they need to fight displacement in the region, LISC recently completed a series of Alameda County Housing Development Capacity Building workshops. Organizations received information aimed to improve their working knowledge of the affordable housing development process and how to work with developers. In partnership with Alameda County Housing and Community Development (HCD) and the San Francisco Foundation, Bay Area LISC called on a host of partners to successfully facilitate the trainings across Alameda County. Now entering into Phase Two of the program, we will provide targeted technical assistance to those organizations who applied and demonstrated moving forward into the redevelopment of affordable housing on their land.

LISC and the Partnership for the Bay’s Future are excited for what’s in store for the Bay!

For news coverage on this event, please check out Berkeleyside for a report on the groundbreaking ceremony.