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SVCF 2019 2019 Annual Report
Our Work

Building the Future of Affordable Housing

This is an abridged version of a story, written by Leigh Flayton and Jenny Quill, that originally appeared in the 2019 SVCF Spring magazine.

John Duckworth couldn’t believe his luck when he moved into his new home in San Jose’s Alum Rock neighborhood eight years ago. After a lifetime spent struggling with homelessness, he was finally the resident of a clean and affordable Section 8 apartment with 13 windows and a “beautiful view overlooking the foothills.”

This is the nicest place I’ve ever lived,” says Duckworth, a 65-year-old former meth addict and alcoholic who celebrated his 11th year of sobriety in May 2019. “I’d never wanted anything more in my life. It’s real quiet, and there are no gunshots or broken glass, no graffiti or anything like that.”

Duckworth is well aware that he’s one of the lucky ones. He was able to find housing he could afford on a small income, enabling him to stay close to his disabled brother, who is nearby in assisted living. He doesn’t own a car, but is close to the bus and light rail, making it possible to travel to his various jobs, one of which is at the Recovery Café, a center serving people who have suffered from addiction, homelessness and mental health issues.

But as everyone in the Bay Area knows, as job growth continues to boom in Silicon Valley, the region has failed to create enough new housing to keep up with demand — let alone keep prices reasonable for extremely low-, low- and middle-income people. Housing success stories like Duckworth’s are far too rare, and so the Bay Area has one of the largest homeless populations in the country.

SVCF is committed to finding bold, collaborative solutions to the housing and homelessness crises, which were decades in the making. Through public advocacy, grantmaking, strategic partnerships and research,  SVCF is working to build vibrant communities and opportunities for all in Silicon Valley.


total investments in 2019 for the Supportive Housing & Innovation Fund — a new fund to catalyze affordable housing created by Destination: Home, a supporting organization of SVCF


households that will be protected over the next five years, through 2024, by Partnership for the Bay’s Future, a regional philanthropic collaboration in which SVCF is participating
1. Public Policy: Impacting Change Through Legislation

For nearly a decade, SVCF has been working to improve public policies that affect homelessness and affordable housing through research, advocacy and getting the right players together to address the problems.

One of the ways this effort is bearing fruit is through SVCF’s multiyear research project — in partnership with UC Berkeley Law School and Columbia University — to conduct a comparative analysis of land entitlement processes in 16 Silicon Valley jurisdictions. This means taking a closer look at the legal process of obtaining approvals from city government agencies for the rights to develop properties — a process that goes mostly unseen by the public.

“These processes are where most of the housing production stumbles. They are hard to regulate and legislate unless there’s more transparency,” says Gina Dalma, SVCF’s executive vice president of community action, policy and strategy. “We’re using this study to engage legislators and ensure that the legislation they craft to streamline housing protection is incredibly well-researched and fact-based.”

To put this research into action, SVCF’s research partners attended a meeting with staffers from the California State Assembly’s Committee on Housing and Community Development, the Senate Housing Committee and the governor’s office to share their findings and discuss ideas around affordable housing legislation.

“If there’s ever been an opportunity to solve our housing crisis, it’s now,” Dalma says, “when the people who are drafting legislation are engaging with researchers.”

2. Prevention: Ending Homelessness in Silicon Valley

When addressing an issue as multifaceted as homelessness, there’s not one lone solution. That’s why Destination: Home, which is affiliated with SVCF as a supporting organization, is addressing the homelessness crisis in Santa Clara County on all fronts. As a public-private partnership, it’s using research to inform policy and streamline services, gathering partners to create more housing and employment solutions for people experiencing homelessness, and allocating philanthropic investments to support the development of new extremely low income (ELI) housing and supportive housing.

Destination: Home used its new Supportive Housing & Innovation Fund to catalyze the development of 294 new supportive housing units in Santa Clara County in the fund’s first year. Supportive housing combines affordable housing with services for people transitioning from homelessness to independent living.

Duckworth is on Destination: Home’s Lived Experience Advisory Board, which helps to ensure that the perspectives of people who have experienced homelessness help guide efforts to fight it. And he is a staunch proponent of supportive housing.

“You can’t just treat one aspect of [homelessness],” Duckworth says. “For example, one issue is with mental health and substance abuse. Dealing with mental health is very extensive. I think it’s a brilliant idea to have everything under one roof.”

Through investments totaling nearly $6.2 million, Destination: Home’s fund helped with four new developments, providing the critical resources needed to acquire new land, design buildings and even pay for furnishings in 134 apartments at San Jose’s first 100 percent supportive housing apartment building for formerly homeless adults, which opened in May 2019.

3. Grantmaking: Investing in the Future of Silicon Valley

In May 2019, Sunnyvale community leaders celebrated the opening of the 66-unit Edwina Benner Plaza, which includes housing for some families transitioning from homelessness.

This is just one example of the results of SVCF’s housing grantmaking strategy, which focuses on three key areas: protecting renters at risk of, or who are experiencing, unjust evictions and displacements; preserving access to existing affordable housing and increasing the production of new affordable housing; and implementing technology and research in innovative ways to scale up impact, particularly for underserved populations.

Since 2007, SVCF’s grantmaking strategies focused on housing and transit have made about $8 million in grants to dozens of local and regional organizations that advance housing opportunities for extremely low-, low- and middle-income residents.

In 2018, SVCF awarded 13 grantees, including a grant to the Housing Leadership Council (HLC) of San Mateo County, an organization that works with communities to produce and preserve high-quality, affordable housing. Edwina Benner Plaza in Sunnyvale is one of the new developments championed by the HLC, which has successfully advocated for the creation of hundreds of new units in recent years.

4. Innovation: Exploring New Housing Solutions

SVCF is also turning its sights to new housing models as a potential solution. In February 2019, the organization convened partners to discuss shared-equity housing, a home ownership model that provides permanently affordable, owner-occupied homes for low- and moderate-income families.

Ideally, this model also provides some form of collective governance, such as a board, that can give tenants a seat at the table in the community decision-making process. The shared-equity housing model makes it easier for those of modest means to attain homeownership and build wealth and agency in their communities, and is part of a larger conversation surrounding the need for both large- and small-scale solutions to Silicon Valley’s housing challenges.

The goal of the February gathering was to explore the impacts of shared-equity housing models across the region and the specific lessons that could be replicated in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. Attendees learned about the Oakland Community Land Trust (CLT) — a nonprofit that creates and oversees resident-controlled housing on community-owned land for low-income residents — as well as local efforts including Pahali, which is based in East Palo Alto, and the South Bay Community Land Trust in San Jose.


homes will be preserved and produced over the next 5 to 10 years in San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda and Contra Costa counties


was granted through SVCF’s 2019 Increasing Access to Affordable Housing Opportunities grantmaking strategy
5. Partnerships: Preserving Affordable Housing Options

It’s no secret that the housing and homelessness crises will take a village to solve. To that end, SVCF joined the San Francisco Foundation, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Kaiser Permanente, the Hewlett Foundation and other local and regional philanthropic organizations to create the Partnership for the Bay’s Future. Launched in January 2019, the partnership is an effort to preserve affordable housing, create new housing and keep residents in their homes through improved public policy and legislation.

The partnership uses a three-pronged approach to address the region’s housing challenges: a regional partnership that fosters collaboration among the private and public sectors and impacted communities; an investment fund for the creation and preservation of affordable housing in the Bay Area; and a policy fund, which strives to protect the housing rights of renters, low-income residents and racial and ethnic minorities by working with governments to prioritize housing solutions.

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