The Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California (NPH) is the lead convener of the Bay Area’s affordable housing industry, activating its 750 members to make the Bay Area a place where everyone has an affordable and stable home. NPH’s policy work advances bold solutions meant to bring about more affordable, stable housing and contribute to a thriving region. The organization focuses on finding housing solutions for low-income people and communities of color who suffer disproportionately from the housing crisis. Their programs and events strengthen and grow the capacity of their members to produce, preserve, and protect affordable housing for equitable communities and neighborhoods.
In 2021, NPH – a longstanding NLIHC member – faced a unique set of challenges in building power for its movement while also finding a new range of opportunities.
While the San Francisco Bay Area has a strong record of housing investment, the intensity of the region’s housing challenges necessitates urgent, large-scale solutions that require action at all levels – local, state, and federal. According to NLIHC’s Out of Reach report, a full-time worker needs to earn $68.33/hour to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment in the San Francisco metropolitan area – the highest housing wage of any metropolitan area in the United States. The seven least affordable metropolitan counties for renters – Marin, San Mateo, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Alameda, and Contra Costa – are all in northern California.
In 2021, NPH worked with its members and partners to zero in on the federal Build Back Better package as a top priority for advancing housing justice in the region and state. While COVID-19 had exacerbated and compounded the health, economic, and housing challenges of Black, Latino, Indigenous, and Asian community members, as well as other people of color, the economic recovery package promised what the White House called “the single largest and most comprehensive investment in affordable housing in history.” The Build Back Better housing framework would provide critically important support for California’s most vulnerable communities – those with the lowest incomes and the highest needs, those who have been hit hardest economically by the pandemic, and those BIPOC neighbors who are disproportionately impacted by unjust housing policies.
When it became clear that members of Congress were not actively fighting to ensure that housing investments remained in the Build Back Better Act, housing advocates across the country began to urge their members of Congress to retain the proposed housing resources. NPH quickly mobilized its coalition, drawing on its strategic position as an organization based in the district of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
As the key housing advocacy organization in Nancy Pelosi’s district, NPH focused on supporting targeted, public accountability measures to move legislative leadership from broadly endorsing housing goals to championing specific provisions. This strategy was needed to ensure that rather than being cut, the housing provisions remained in the final Build Back Better package.
“The housing provisions in Build Back Better are a transformative opportunity,” said NPH Executive Director Amie Fishman. “They would be game-changing for Bay Area and California communities, and critical to getting community members back to work, getting and keeping people housed, and ensuring that we’re prepared for the next emergency.”
As discussions about what to include in the reconciliation bill started heating up, NPH designed an engagement strategy to demonstrate the existence of strong support in the Speaker’s district. NPH wrote a sign-on letter urging Speaker Pelosi and Senate leadership to retain the Build Back Better Act’s housing provisions in the face of potential cuts and succeeded in organizing more than 600 grasstops signatories – including organization members, coalition partners, elected officials, and other community leaders – by the end of September. NPH also convened meetings to share information with members, created a social media toolkit, and devoted staff capacity to bolster its members’ media advocacy, all with the aim of driving the visibility of messaging by constituents across the region.
At the same time, NPH submitted an editorial memo to the San Francisco Chronicle, which resulted in the newspaper writing in support of retaining strong housing investments in Build Back Better.
When reports in autumn 2021 suggested that housing provisions were at imminent risk of being cut from Build Back Better, NPH led its coalition to produce a sign-on letter directed to Speaker Pelosi. The letter’s signatories, including San Francisco elected officials like Mayor London Breed, Assemblymember David Chiu, Assemblymember Phil Ting, and State Senator Scott Weiner, urged Speaker Pelosi to prioritize the housing asks in the package. With this letter, NPH signaled a change in its tactics from applying general, public pressure to emphasizing the power and will of San Francisco’s elected officials – Pelosi’s colleagues in her own district.
Following NPH’s sustained advocacy efforts, Speaker Pelosi’s office began to champion housing and defending investments in the package. The speaker’s office became more vocal to the press about the importance of housing in Build Back Better and the impact of housing issues on Californians.
Now, as 2022 begins, NPH remains at the forefront of the push to enact the Build Back Better Act’s housing resources, which are critical to California’s future. NPH is also advocating at the state level for program regulations that would direct affordable housing funds to extremely low-income renters and people experiencing homelessness and ensure that new housing investments support those with the greatest needs.
NPH is grateful to Speaker Pelosi for championing affordable housing in Build Back Better, and the organization is hopeful that she will continue to push for housing investments in the plan as well as in future opportunities. NPH also thanks Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla, as well as the Bay Area Congressional Delegation, for their strong support of the affordable housing investments in Build Back Better.