Karoleen Feng's Speech at MEDA 1,000 Homes Saved Celebration

(Watch video of MEDA’s community-development work.)

“Good evening. I want to welcome the community. Thank you for joining us this evening. My name is Karoleen Feng, and I am proud to be the director of Community Real Estate for the Mission Economic Development Agency. 

“Tonight is our chance to all take a pause to celebrate not just 1,000 homes being preserved or produced, but the achievement of a movement and the creation of a model. None of this would have been possible without all of you — you each have played an integral role in fostering hope in the Mission where uncertainty still seems the norm for our families. That uncertainty is based in reality. Everyone knows of someone who has been evicted or priced out. Since the year 2000, there had been 8,000 Latinos displaced from the Mission — over 25 percent of this community.

“When three years ago MEDA decided to establish our Community Real Estate, we knew it was a challenging road ahead. We had been in the Mission for four decades and had a dedicated staff and strategic tools. Alongside us there was a community of residents rooting for us to succeed, families willing to organize, funders looking to back innovative community development and a City government seeking creative solutions to what had become a crisis in San Francisco … and especially in the Mission District.

“We all moved forward, with a sense of urgency and purpose. Together.

“Well, here we are just three years later, and all of your support has translated to us having 1,000 units of affordable housing and 100,000 square feet of commercial and nonprofit space in the pipeline. Give yourselves a round of applause. Amazing work.

“This success brings our families hope for new homes that they can come back to and homes that they can stay in. With our partners, Chinatown CDC and Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, we have four new construction developments ready to move in by 2020. That’s over 400 apartments — all within a dozen blocks of here — where we will house our families, children, transitional-aged youth and seniors. All low income. Many formerly homeless.

“These four developments will also be home to longtime community nonprofits and arts organizations. Jamestown Community Center. PODER. Galería de la Raza. Good Samaritan Family Resource Center. Mission Neighborhood Centers.  All venerable names. All synonymous with the vibrancy of the Mission’s culture. All in permanent places to keep the Mission the Mission. These neighborhood institutions create the fabric of the Mission. Just like the Women’s Building. This cultural space for our neighborhood is our host for this evening.

“We have also transitioned ownership of five public housing developments in San Francisco via HUD’s Rental Assistance Demonstration program, known as RAD, with MEDA partnering with BRIDGE Housing. Together, we are working daily to renovate units and common areas while we simultaneously build trust with tenants and combat decades of isolation. These residents are seniors or disabled, so now these San Franciscans can age in place with dignity.

“For our families being pushed out of  rental housing in the private market, MEDA has been purchasing four- to 25-unit apartment buildings with tenants vulnerable to eviction and keeping the buildings permanently affordable with the City’s Small Sites Program — a targeted approach that has led to over a dozen buildings being bought, and 86 households fighting possible eviction by organizing and showcasing the community’s resiliency. They are now able to call the Mission home for generations to come. These are housecleaners. Single moms. Teachers. Artists. Our neighbors.

“In addition, through our Housing Opportunities team we have been helping  families prepare for rental Opportunities. We have broken their myths that new opportunities aren’t for them. We help them through the grueling lottery process and preparing to qualify as a renter so that they can get into below market rate or affordable rentals. We have helped 100s of households apply to stay in San Francisco.

“I encourage you all to read the powerful numbers and stories lining the walls of this room and stay inspired. The faces to these powerful numbers showcase how we are all keeping the Mission a neighborhood of opportunity … for everyone. And some of our residents are among us today.

“I also urge you to speak with MEDA staff about strategies, results to date and how you can continue to be part of this important work. They are wearing paper flowers, color coordinated to the strategies shown in the posters on the walls. MEDA’s Board and management team are also wearing flowers and look forward to speaking with you about our work moving forward.

“Did I mention our goal is 1,000 more units by 2020? Let’s all make that happen. Together.”




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