June 16, 2023
On May 23, 2023, United Way Bay Area (UWBA) hosted the United for Equity Community Partner Convening in Antioch, California as part of our commitment to addressing the significant challenges surrounding housing in the Bay Area. The gathering brought together local officials, community leaders, and UWBA Ambassadors who have lived experience with housing challenges for a meaningful dialogue on tackling housing problems locally and statewide. This particular event, which marked the culmination of Affordable Housing Month, a time set aside to further elevate the need for equitable solutions, provided a platform for guest panelists to share their lived experiences, valuable insights, and proposed solutions. We’ll explore some of the key takeaways from each panel and discuss possible ways to improve the Bay Area housing crisis overall.
The Ambassadors’ panel placed a spotlight on the voices and stories of individuals who have personally experienced the challenges of securing stable and affordable housing. Panelists included Juan, Rachel, Muhammed, Russell, and Cedric, and were moderated by Apple. Here are the key takeaways from their discussions:
UWBA ambassadors bravely shared their personal experiences of housing insecurity, highlighting the profound impact it has on individuals, families, and communities. Their stories underscored the urgent need for immediate action and comprehensive solutions to address the housing crisis. Their perspectives are stark reminders of what individuals and families are experiencing across the Bay Area every day. You can read more about their experiences in their own words starting here.
Housing being a human right is something that comes up often. In this case, Ambassadors chose to focus on the human part of that term, reminding the audience that they are people deserving of the compassion and dignity that comes with secure, stable, and affordable housing. The empathetic response is not simply to be emotionally moved to understanding by the panelists’ stories, but rather that understanding moves the audience to action. By listening to these firsthand accounts, attendees gained a deeper appreciation of the human toll of the housing crisis, strengthening their resolve to find equitable and sustainable solutions.
Ambassadors also emphasized the power of grassroots organizing and community-led initiatives in affecting change. Their stories highlighted the importance of centering the voices of impacted communities in shaping housing policies and programs.
The second panel brought together local government officials and community leaders who shared their insights and ideas for addressing the housing crisis in their area and across the Bay Area. Here are the key takeaways from their discussions:
Panelists stressed the need to increase the supply of affordable housing units in the Bay Area. They discussed the importance of leveraging partnerships between government agencies, developers, and nonprofits to expedite the development of affordable housing projects.
Protecting and preserving existing affordable housing units emerged as a top priority as well, with the panel stressing that preserving existing housing and developing new housing is not an either/or situation – we need to find a way to do both. They underscored the significance of implementing policies and programs that prevent the loss of affordable housing, such as rent stabilization, eviction protections, and community-driven preservation efforts.
The officials’ panel acknowledged the interconnectedness between affordable housing and homelessness. They emphasized the importance of implementing comprehensive strategies that prioritize housing-first approaches, supportive services, and targeted interventions to address the root causes of homelessness.
Panelists committed to advocating for policies that support affordable housing development and preservation. They recognized the need to allocate resources and collaborate with community organizations to drive systemic change and dismantle the barriers to affordable housing.
The United for Equity Partner Convening provided a platform for UWBA Ambassadors’ lived experiences with searching for affordable housing and for officials to discuss the issues and possible solutions in the same space.
UWBA remains committed to amplifying the voices of those impacted by the lack of affordable housing crisis and working collaboratively with partners, officials, and community leaders to find equitable solutions. By uniting our efforts and prioritizing affordable housing, we can create a future where everyone in the Bay Area has access to safe, affordable, and stable housing. If you want to be part of the discussion and the solutions, consider making a donation, and signing up for our newsletter to stay connected to the stories and the work being done across the Bay Area.