Year of the Wood Dragon: Entering the Next Decade of Community Real Estate

Karoleen Feng, MEDA’s Chief Community Real Estate Officer.

By Karoleen Feng, Chief Community Real Estate Officer

2024 is a big year for Community Real Estate (CRE) program at MEDA.

Ten years ago we set out with the audacious goal of countering the displacement of Latinx families from San Francisco’s Mission District with a POC- led team. This year, we celebrate our first decade of work within an organization that just celebrated its 50th.

Our ten-year milestone happens to also be the Year of the Wood Dragon in Chinese tradition – one my family recognizes and celebrates. The Dragon holds a significant place as an auspicious and extraordinary creature, and wood dragons dream of changing the world. With that at the top of my mind, we have two priorities for this auspicious year:

  • Nurturing a second generation of POC leadership within the Community Real Estate team
  • Securing sustainable funding to scale affordable housing for the next ten years through ballot propositions

We want to harness the energy of this year for particularly exciting projects in the pipeline. Our two priorities ensure that we can start construction on our first educator housing homeownership project (Casa Adelante – 2205 Mission), purchase our first large apartment building portfolio of 110 homes and small businesses, and continue the pre-development of at least 700 units at three sites (Casa Adelante – 1515 South Van Ness, Potrero Yard, and 1979 Mission – Marvel in the Mission) while continuing to develop a team of career-long affordable housing professionals.

Each of these projects leads the field of affordable housing and community development which secure permanent and life-long homes for our Mission residents.

Building the Second Generation of POC Leadership

From our very start, the Community Real Estate team has been primarily led by people of color who have lived experiences that reflect the families we are housing. MEDA’s CRE staff has not always come from elite schools with graduate degrees. As we have grown, we have supported staff as they navigate the affordable housing field and develop their experience and knowledge base of complex financing and regulations. To train the next generation of leaders is in the spirit of MEDA’s values. Staff who have moved on from CRE have been able to grow within the field with peer nonprofits, government offices, community funders, and consultants.

Our CRE team is committed to developing our staff to be successful with long-term, sustainable careers in affordable housing to counter the industry average of limited 3-5-year tenures. Their longevity and lived experiences enrich not only the field of affordable housing professionals but also the effectiveness of securing permanent affordable housing for generations. We are looking at their professional growth through the lens of their personal ambitions – career, family, and personal well-being to achieve those goals for the long haul.

Beyond MEDA’s Community Real Estate team, we are growing the capacity of our peer community-based partners, YCD, Tabernacle, SFHDC, Self Help for the Elderly with a community-led and place-focused approach to affordable housing in the neighborhoods they started in – Hunter’s Point-Bayview, the Westside. We have partnered on new construction and/or preservation projects in multiple projects so that we can truly exchange learnings and support the changes in the organizations and teams as they expand their pipeline and portfolio.

Funding Landscape

2024 is also a significant year for local, regional and state funding for affordable housing goals over the next decade. 2024 is an election year and while most voters may be focused on our presidential elections, voters will also get to address affordable housing funding ballot measures in the March primaries and November elections. Over the past couple of years, the narrative of affordable housing as an othering issue has shifted into a universal issue of housing as a fundamental human right. MEDA will be outreaching to our families, allies and neighbors to get out the vote and encourage them to vote with MEDA through ballot guides.

San Francisco was one of the first cities in the state to complete the Housing Element plan for the ambitious goal of 42,000 affordable housing units by 2030. To reach this goal will take substantial taxpayer dollars to address the disparities in housing costs locally, regionally and statewide.

Affordable housing advocates worked with City leaders to place Proposition A on the March 5th elections – $300 million in local bonds for funding the existing, robust pipeline of affordable housing, and does not raise taxes. San Francisco has relied on local funding bonds over the last ten years to preserve and build affordable housing units in the City. Our Potrero Yard and 1979 Mission – Marvel in the Mission projects will rely on funding from Prop A to jumpstart the multiple phases of development. In the last decade, previous bonds financed the 1000s of apartments we were able to build in the Mission District, like Casa Adelante – 1296 Shotwell, Casa Adelante – 2060 Folsom, Casa Adelante – 2828 16th Street, and Casa Adelante – 681 Florida as well as preserve 33 small sites.

In the November 5th elections, voters will get an opportunity to fund more affordable housing beyond the existing pipeline in San Francisco, with a $10-20 billion regional housing bond and a possible state bond.

As we enter this new year, we also look forward to the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development’s new leadership with Daniel Adams as Director of San Francisco’s largest agency responsible for housing and community development. We continue to encourage MOHCD to act expansively and collaboratively with the nonprofit developer community. We know our accelerated growth in the last decade came from City leaders believing in community capacity and funders looking to local organizations like MEDA for thought partnership and collaboration in tackling our most pressing challenges to growing San Francisco with a racially equitable approach.

It’s been an honor to build MEDA’s Community Real Estate program in the last ten years as a foundation for our next decade of work towards reversing displacement of the families who make the Mission District, the Mission, and making this a national movement.

I continue to be inspired by the determination of my Mission District neighbors and partners in my role as Chief Community Real Estate Officer, and as I dive deeper I will continue to advocate with them for a more just and healthy ecosystem of affordable housing for all our families.

On a personal note: My daughter also turns 10 this year. Seeing her grow alongside this amazing team and the work at MEDA has given me so much insight on myself, and also on life.

Our next generation is the reason why we work so hard for what we do – through her I am reminded of that daily.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *