Announcing the launch of our Challenge Grants

Earlier this year, we launched the Partnership for the Bay’s Future as a collaborative regional effort to address the affordable housing crisis in the Bay Area, which has reached unprecedented proportions. This is a defining moment for our region. If we want to continue growing our economy, we have a vested interest in building communities that are inclusive of, and prosperous for all residents—especially low-wage workers, low-income tenants, and communities of color. If we join forces to act with urgency, we can solve this crisis.

Our Partnership is the first public-private initiative of its kind in California, consisting of philanthropic, faith, government, business, and community leaders all working toward a shared vision: housing security and a more equitable and inclusive economy for all. The Partnership is unique, in part, because of our focus on the “3Ps”—protecting tenants, while preserving and producing more affordable housing—and, because we aim to achieve results through investments and policy change, both of which are needed if we want to make a meaningful, lasting change to the affordable housing situation in our region.

A recent study by PolicyLink states that rents in the Bay Area have skyrocketed in all nine counties in the past three years. A family of two minimum-wage workers earning $62,400 per year can afford market rents in just 5 percent of Bay Area neighborhoods. If we can reduce the spiraling costs of housing, we can strengthen our communities and our region as a whole.

The Partnership started this January with two breakthrough funds—our Investment Fund and our Policy Fund—with a goal to expand and protect the housing rights of up to 175,000 households over the next five years and preserve and produce more than 8,000 homes over the next five to 10 years in the Bay Area.

Today, we are excited to announce that our Policy Fund is launching its first funding opportunity: the Challenge Grants for Protection and Preservation, with overall funding of nearly $4 million. These Challenge Grants—managed by the San Francisco Foundation on behalf of the Partnership—are designed as a competitive process between Bay Area jurisdictions interested in catalyzing policy change to protect vulnerable tenants and preserve existing affordable housing.

We will select up to ten jurisdictions that propose the most high-impact, yet realistically achievable plans to be a part of a two-year program. Within this period, awardee jurisdictions will receive a capacity building and technical assistance package to pass and begin implementing protection and preservation policies.

The package will include: an early to mid-career fellow to increase capacity for this work, peer cohort support for regional impact, preferential status when applying for flexible capital from the Partnership’s Investment Fund and access to technical assistance. The jurisdictions we select will be expected to partner with community groups to pass and implement a comprehensive package of recommended tenant protection and affordable housing preservation policies.

Challenge Grants are now open to cities and counties in the lower five Bay Area counties of Santa Clara, San Mateo, San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa that are currently experiencing, or at risk of experiencing displacement or exclusion of low-income and people of color communities.

We will accept applications from city and county departments that play a lead role in housing, planning, community development or other relevant areas. We will also accept applications featuring creative departmental and cross city/county partnerships. After receiving all the applications, the San Francisco Foundation will conduct three rounds of review, including participation from the Partnership for the Bay’s Future’s Advisory Board, followed by site visits with select jurisdictions to interview staff, elected officials and community partners central to the effort.

We hope that you will encourage your jurisdiction to download and read the Request for Proposals for more details and information, and that your town or city will apply online if eligible.

Challenge Grant applications are due by Friday, August 9, 2019 at 11:59 PM PST. We will announce the awardees in November 2019.

In the meantime, to find out more about the Challenge Grants, your jurisdiction can sign up for an online information session hosted by the San Francisco Foundation on May 30, from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. PDT.

In addition, jurisdictions that would like support in developing their Challenge Grant applications may apply for technical assistance support by June 14, 2019 at 11:59 PM PST, by submitting a Letter of Intent. [Please note that jurisdictions do not need to apply for a Planning Grant in order to pursue a Challenge Grant.]

Housing affordability and stability is an issue for everyone in the Bay Area. This program is a vital first step in delivering housing security and a more equitable and inclusive economy for all. We hope you will join us in tackling our housing shortage and housing affordability challenges in a way that will benefit residents across the income spectrum and improve the economic vitality of our region.

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