Having joined Enterprise Community Partners in 2011, Heather Hood currently oversees efforts in Northern California that ensure low- and moderate-income residents have access to affordable, quality housing. And notably, San Francisco and the Bay Area is one of the front lines of what is a national issue. Enterprise is a national organization, over three and a half decades old, whose mission has been to create opportunity through affordable housing in diverse, thriving communities. Through lending, financing of development and building affordable housing, Enterprise has helped create over 662,000 homes, and invested over $52 billion to date.
Heather has co-authored influential pieces such as The Elephant in the Region: How Bay Metro Can Lead a Bold Regional Housing Agenda, as well as worked to develop a region-wide inclusionary zoning framework and a plan to utilize public land. She conceived Enterprise’s technical assistance approach around the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program, leading to more $400 million in state resources to affordable homes, and co-chaired Oakland’s Housing Cabinet, which released A Roadmap Toward Equity, whose recommendations have mostly been implemented, or are underway.
Previously, Heather was Initiative Officer for the Great Communities Collaborative at The San Francisco Foundation where she was instrumental in the development of the $85 million Bay Area Transit-Oriented Affordable Housing Fund. She has been a lecturer at University of California, Berkeley’s Department of City and Regional Planning and was a co-founder and director of its Center for Community Innovation. Heather also co-authored The Future of Infill Housing in California: Opportunities, Potential, Feasibility and Demand for the California Department of Housing and Community Development. While in graduate school she worked at Places Journal.
Insights and Inspirations
- We have all failed in delivering affordable housing. But NIMBYism has failed us the most.
- Zoning needs to allow for higher density to help solve the affordable housing crisis.
- Entitlements take far too long. This only adds to the expense of housing projects.
- We need to preserve existing affordable housing units and buildings.
Information and Links
- Heather wants us to know about the Homecoming Project,
- and to highlight these community-driven principles behind Hope SF,
- and she also wants to point to this affordable housing portal for San Francisco.
Read the podcast transcript here
Eve Picker: [00:00:10] Hi there. Thanks so much for joining me today for the latest episode of Impact Real Estate Investing. My guest today is Heather Hood, VP at Enterprise Community Partners and Market Leader for Northern California. Heather works to ensure low- and moderate- income residents have access to affordable, quality housing in Northern California. She’s written influential pieces on housing issues, helped to create technical assistance programs and co-chaired Oakland’s Housing Cabinet. Heather believes there are a few reasons why we are in the affordable housing pickle we are in. NIMBYism has failed us. Construction costs and the cost of land have soared. We need to permit higher density. And it takes far too long to get permission to build a building – the production line needs to be sped up, dramatically. You’ll want to hear more.
Eve: [00:01:13] Be sure to go to EvePicker.com to find out more about Heather on the show notes page for this episode, and be sure to sign up for my newsletter so you can access information about impact real estate investing and get the latest news about the exciting projects on my crowdfunding platform, Small Change.
Eve: [00:01:40] Hello, Heather. I’m just delighted to have this opportunity to talk to you today.
Heather Hood: [00:01:44] Well, thank you, Eve. It’s nice to be here. Good morning.
Eve: [00:01:47] Good morning, well, midday for me, but good morning to you. So, you’re working on perhaps one of the most difficult challenges of our time, affordable housing in California. And I was hoping we could start talking about how our real estate industry has failed everyday people. And why is there such a huge gap between housing available and the need?
Heather: [00:02:14] Ah, well, I’m not really sure ..
Eve: [00:02:18] It’s a difficult first question.
Heather: [00:02:18] Yeah … it’s a complicated one to unpack. I want to back up there a little bit and question that it’s the real estate industry that has failed the population. I think we’ve all failed. And we do not have enough homes for the population. And that’s just a simple question of math. There are millions of people who need homes, but we’ve grown, in our state and with our economy, with jobs, too much and too fast without having a housing production keep up with it. So, that’s got our whole system out of whack. We don’t have enough housing at any level of affordability, and especially for low- and moderate- income people.
Eve: [00:03:02] Yeh.
Heather: [00:03:03] The way that that has happened, really … the reason I was questioning your frame that it’s the real estate industry is because there’s been many proposals all around the state for housing to be built, in the last 30 years. And our population, especially homeowners, have resisted letting it be built. And so that NIMBYism, “Not In My Backyard,” has crimped our production line, construction line, to the point where we’re choking now without enough housing.
Eve: [00:03:34] So, really, we’ve failed ourselves, right?
Heather: [00:03:38] We failed ourselves. We failed to see beyond that thing we, some of us may not have wanted on the end of the street. And we thought, oh, it’s going to cause traffic or change the character of the neighborhood or invite too many kids into our schools or whatever it was. We, the big We, were nervous about it, and wouldn’t let it happen.
Eve: [00:04:00] So, one of the key things going wrong is, is NIMBYism. And, you know, I thought for a long time developers were really focused on building housing for particular markets. Like, you see a lot of these platform projects with small one-bedroom studio apartments aimed at millennials, that isn’t … you don’t think that’s part of the problem?
Heather: [00:04:25] Sure, I think that there are multiple problems within the big problem. The big problem is we don’t have enough housing. And the construction costs have gotten so darn high with fees and materials and labor and so on. Cost of land, because land is at such a premium, that our private developers feel forced into figuring out how to squeeze the most profit out of each piece of property. And one of the ways to do that is to have the smaller and smaller and smaller units.
Eve: [00:04:57] Yes.
Heather: [00:04:58] And that only meets one segment of the market. And in addition, there’s been a push to have lots of amenities, and those tend to get expensive. Dogwashing stations and roof decks with heat lamps and, and jacuzzis, and those sorts of things to create the edge for a particular property, to entice those segments of the market … They, are targeted. So, it’s, in short, called luxury housing. In some parts of the world, it would simply be called regular middle-income housing, but because it’s in such stark contrast to low-income housing that is not subsidized and tends to often be poorly maintained, it appears to be very luxurious. In fact, it is barbells, different types of housing types, it’s a big problem. We’re not building anything, enough in between.
Eve: [00:05:49] The missing middle, right?
Heather: [00:05:50] Well, I’ll call it the missing middle. But to be clear what I mean of the middle is a pretty darn big middle. I mean, most people between 80% to 150 … I mean, the middle of between 30 percent of the area median income, up to 200 percent of median income, a big middle.
Eve: [00:06:06] That’s a very big …
Heather: [00:06:07] A big doughnut hole there.
Eve: [00:06:08] Yeah.
Heather: [00:06:09] Yeah. Tough to build all of that.
Eve: [00:06:12] What’s it going to take to correct course, I was going to say, take to correct these things, but I’m just going to say, you know, to correct course.
Heather: [00:06:23] There are a myriad of things. I think the first of, to, for the zoning, to allow for higher density. And some time limit on how long projects can be held up. And conversely, some better process for stakeholders to be able to influence the outcome. Right now, there’s just kind of this, you know, this rote and very legal … process that doesn’t invite much conversation or compromise. So, I, something in the zoning. We need to do something about the construction costs, and maybe the answer there is manufactured housing. I hope so, because a lot has been invested in that direction. It also would mean conceiving of projects as being a mix of unit types and income types, where we might start to see some cross-subsidy from the pretty big profit that does, actually, end up being made off of these risky projects, and cross-subsidizing some of the lower income living. Either through getting that to a housing trust fund in the city or county, or by including affordable units.
Heather: [00:07:35] So, that would help … I’d also emphasize something that our industry probably will start maturing and leaning into, which is the preservation of existing buildings that are affordable. So, where there are, especially near transit or other sorts of neighborhood amenities, there are small, medium and large properties that will likely, in the next economic downturn, be for sale. And that’s a really wonderful opportunity for publicly-motivated entities, whether they’re cities or nonprofit developers, to purchase them and renovate them, make them that much healthier and permanently affordable for the folks who live there now. That would help a great deal with the displacement challenges. And that sort of technique is cheaper than building new construction. We can leave the new expensive construction to the, some affordable housing developers and the so-called luxury housing developers.
Eve: [00:08:36] Makes a lot of sense. Do you know of people or organizations that are taking these course corrections? I mean, we’ve all heard about ADUs, which is one way of mixing the market. Right? But that’s only one little way.
Heather: [00:08:53] Yeah. I’ll mention a couple that I’ve worked with. One is East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation. It’s a community development nonprofit developer in Oakland, California, who has been purchasing properties where people live now. These are once-dilapidated apartment buildings with 30 or 60 units. Or sometimes, in the case of one portfolio, scattered around the city, a very different, small and medium properties that they bought from existing owners, maybe they were kids who wanted to get out of the inheritance of owning … different stories. And they’ve been renovating them, bringing them up to code and working carefully with the residents to help them figure out where to live for a little bit of time while the renovations are getting done. And then they end up being much more handsome properties, and less blight in the neighborhood, and appreciated much better by the tenants who know that they can stay.
Eve: [00:09:53] Well, I’m sure, yeh.
Heather: [00:09:54] That’s one organization. There’s another one called the Oakland Community Land Trust. And land trusts actually are doing this more and more. These are, tend to be smaller organizations, like, one to five staff, who tend to be buying just one little building that’s maybe got a cafe on the ground floor and two units above, or a few single family houses in the neighborhood as they come available. This is something where the land remains in the holding of the nonprofit organization and the building itself gets owned by resident or commercial owner. And they’ve been looking for those kind of opportunities for a good while.
Eve: [00:10:34] Yeah, OK, this is, it’s an organic process that looks like it’s going to take a while to correct course. I mean, that’s in California. I don’t know if it’s happening anywhere else.
Heather: [00:10:47] Of course … New York is much more mature as an industry in what we would call preservation. You know, in the three P’s: producing housing, preserving affordability or protecting tenants. The second ‘P’ is, of preservation, is a more mature technique in other parts of the country. But I think we have the potential in California to shift our industry to add this technique at a much bigger scale to our toolkit. And now is the time to do that.
Eve: [00:11:18] Interesting.
Heather: [00:11:19] Yeah.
Eve: [00:11:20] So, what about financial institutions? You know, what sort of role are they taking? I mean, this is an especially difficult time to find financing of any kind. What are you seeing in that, aside from your own organization?
Heather: [00:11:37] So, that’s along the lines of things that could shift to change the outcome?
Eve: [00:11:42] Yeah, I mean, along the lines of, you know, are there financial institutions that are taking a stake in this affordable housing problem and shifting more funds towards it, making it easier to borrow money for that type of project, any of the above.
Heather: [00:12:00] Yeah. So, many of us are. I work at Enterprise Community Partners, and that’s what we wake up and do every day, is finance policy and technical assistance. On the financial team, whether it’s a nonprofit community development financial institution like ours, or others, or a bank, I think what this moment in our history has done is sort of rattle the, you said, you know, what we’ve got to do is take more quote unquote, risk, in projects. So, there’s an, what they call underwriting, which is to figure out if the proposal of a project makes financial sense, if the borrower has the chops to carry it out. There’s a safety net that’s been built in so that if things that could go awry, there’s a cushion. And all that is in the interest of making sure, and the various investors will eventually get their money back, and the project gets done and people get to live there. There, in the underwriting process, there are scores for risk, and in order to get a development done in a, in certain geographies, that would be quote unquote risky, or cities that are quote unquote risky. For some developers who are newer to the stage, especially new affordable housing developers, just … naturally some scrutiny, but we could probably all relax just a bit to make sure that more projects can flow, and the dollars flow. And I’ll have to say that this moment is forcing the financial industry to really look at itself and see that back to the 60s and 70s, the financial institution, through redlining and blockbusting, really made it their version of risky. It’s what was quite racist and is what led to creating some of the marginalization that you see in neighborhoods today that are hot neighborhoods. So, it takes some responsibility, sort of an interesting form of reparation, to see to it that the neighborhoods get a much better chance and the people in them get a much better chance to determine their fate and develop …
Eve: [00:14:17] Right.
Heather: [00:14:18] … as they would like them to.
Eve: [00:14:20] So, it’s going to take some fairly major shifts in a variety of industries to really solve this problem. And then, you know, I wonder what the role of government is in all of this. I mean, zoning definitely has cramped everyone’s style, but …
Heather: [00:14:37] Yeh. Government can do a lot. My perspective on government, and it’s not all government, so I am going to make a …. but I’ll just make a generalization. That through various tax codes, especially in California, Prop 13, we’ve, through those sort of … larger policies, we’ve forced government, local government, to be looking for those things that would create tax bases. So … wanting commercial private development, because that’s where you get taxes in order to do the things that cities want to do, take care of parks, take care of public works, ensure safety and services, and summer camps and all that kind of good stuff. So, the cities are forced to have to find that through commercial development, and to dissuade residential development, to some degree. So, different cities have responded in their own way to that reality. But if we had a different tax code and cities were not forced into that kind of cattywampus position, they could get back to balancing the various interests, whether they be mission-oriented or private interests.
Eve: [00:15:53] Interesting.
Heather: [00:15:54] Yeah, so they wouldn’t have to be sort of pretending to have this, putting lip service to the public good, but having, in to order to execute on that, do a lot of gymnastics, which capitalism …
Eve: [00:16:08] So, This problem really runs really deep, doesn’t it?
Heather: [00:16:11] Yeah, it does. We can talk at the surface level, but that’s what really, let government be government, for the people and all the people, of all the, with all the interest.
Eve: [00:16:22] Right. I want to shift gears a little bit and just ask you about yourself, because I noticed that you trained as an architect, like I did. And then as an urban planner. And I’m just wondering what prompted that shift?
Heather: [00:16:35] Oh, well, I’d love to know your story, too. But I’ll tell you mine. It’s a little bit of a long story. I’ll try to make it short. I wanted to be an architect since I was a little girl. I loved designing and spatial relations and 3-D things. And so we drew little floor plans for fun, starting on summer vacation, because my parents wouldn’t let us watch TV. And then it just kind of grew into admiring buildings where I grew up in Philadelphia or on trips that we were lucky enough to take. I got to go to architecture school twice, because I was sure that’s what I wanted to do, except that when I practiced it, interning or working in … positions at architecture firms, it really seemed as if the architects were the last ones called …
Eve: [00:17:26] Oh yeh! Absolutely.
Heather: [00:17:28] … the early 90s and mid 90s, and I just thought, now wait a minute, I don’t want to be the last one called in, you know, when you’re under 30 as an architect, you tend to just be sitting at a CAD machine. So, I thought, well, this isn’t the life I want. As much as I love my colleagues and the buildings, and the construction process and all that good stuff, I just love it. I mean, I’m looking from my window right now and I see five cranes in the air and I just love watching buildings get built …
Eve: [00:17:55] Yeah.
Heather: [00:17:55] … just love it. Endlessly entertaining. So, I happened to be at UC Berkeley and I walked down the hall at the College of Environmental Design from the architecture to the city planning department to sign up for a course. And it was, I think it was Women and Planning, and Betty, Professor Betty Deakin, was teaching it and she just had other women from the field – landscape architecture, architecture, industrial design, city planning – come in and … I got really jazzed about city planning. I thought, oh, this is what I want to do, I just didn’t know what to call it.
Eve: [00:18:32] Yeah.
Heather: [00:18:33] I wanted to make neighborhoods in cities with wonderful buildings for people, and then, ok, that’s called city planning. So, it was as simple as that.
Eve: [00:18:42] Yes.
Heather: [00:18:42] Got to go to Berkeley for a couple more years and chase that dream.
Eve: [00:18:48] And then you shifted into finance. Sort of.
Heather: [00:18:51] Sort of, yes. I was lucky enough to work for UC Berkeley doing campus planning. Mostly on the urban, off-campus urban side, and then to be on some boards that were involved in things that affected social justice in cities. And was lucky enough to get to work on an initiative called the Great Community Collaborative, at, based at the San Francisco Foundation, which was a really wonderful way to work with 25 organizations and 14 funders to figure out how can we in the Bay Area make sure that there’s higher density and more community benefits surrounding our transit nodes in the region. And that takes a lot of organizing and envisioning and technical stuff. And so we banded together to make that happen, and I got so excited about that. It was hard, but wonderful sorts of people, and important wins along the way. Except I got into it long enough to know that if there wasn’t money for what was being planned …
Eve: [00:19:51] Yeah.
Heather: [00:19:51] … that things were not going to happen.
Eve: [00:19:55] Yes.
Heather: [00:19:55] It was great to make sure that the density was approved by city council, or that more affordable housing would be built in a place, or that in the building there would be a minimum number of jobs. And that’s all great, except if there wasn’t the financing in place to, underpinning that, there, things would be stuck. And so, I just thought I’ve got to learn how this works and pursued a job at Enterprise, which was the only organization that was a financial institution that I wanted to work for, because … I shared the values and I loved all the things they did around the country, and I was incredibly fortunate to have been hired to take that job. That was the moment. And I’m still learning a lot about financing, right? Endless amounts to learn. I’m not all the way there.
Eve: [00:20:47] Yes.
Heather: [00:20:48] It’s going to take the rest of my life to really get it.
Eve: [00:20:51] Well, I always think that architects are uniquely trained to think through challenges. In architecture school we’re trained to take an idea and to turn it into something, and I, in a very creative way, and I can’t think of another profession where you can really quite do that. So, I love to see architects kind of littered across the landscape in different roles because I, I also think architecture schools fail our students. The students who need to understand that they have so many more options because they have such, I think, special training.
Heather: [00:21:25] Yeah.
Eve: [00:21:25] I actually started as an architect and then went and did a masters in urban design at Columbia, for similar reasons. I was really fascinated by cities more than iconic buildings, and I wanted to know how cities sort of worked together. And when I moved to Pittsburgh, I worked for a planning department as an urban designer, and loved that job. But I worked for an architect for a while and always felt like, you know, we were at the end of everything. There I was sitting doing stair details, whereas, you know, I really wanted to understand how you did development projects and put it together. So, I went to slightly different route and started doing my own projects, and figuring out financing and, and yeah, it is all about money. Unfortunately.
Heather: [00:22:15] So, you became a developer?
Eve: [00:22:16] Yeah, I became a developer. And then when, and then when the funds dried up, they sort of shifted after the Bush administration and the bank meltdown, I sat back and sort of tried to figure out what to do next and then launched Small Change, really, this real estate crowdfunding platform to fill in those pieces of financing that I think are so important to creating new ideas in the physical landscape. They’re the ideas that generally are not financed. So, anyway, this is way too much about me.
Heather: [00:22:56] Oh, no, it’s fascinating. I love hearing how people make decisions to curl into the next … especially when I think of younger generations as I mentor people and people call and ask, what should I do next? Which, I’m not sure how to think about this, and there’s a great deal of worry people have about …
Eve: [00:23:14] Oh, there are so many things.
Heather: [00:23:14] … Yeah. Or they start off their career, and how do I get from here to there? And the truth is, everybody’s career is fairly curly.
Eve: [00:23:21] It is curly, yeh.
Heather: [00:23:22] And you don’t really know the best path from here to there. You might change your mind.
Eve: [00:23:28] Yeh, and you should enjoy the journey, you know.
Heather: [00:23:29] Right, us planners have to be more relaxed with improvising. I certainly am learning that.
Eve: [00:23:35] Yup. Certainly, there was a period when I really worried about people looking at my resume and thinking, she can’t stick to anything. You know?
Heather: [00:23:44] Uh huh.
Eve: [00:23:44] I think that time has passed. And I think now, you know, people are in jobs for much shorter times because there’s really a much wider array array of opportunities, which I think is really fascinating.
Heather: [00:23:57] Yep.
Eve: [00:23:58] Thanks for sharing that. I wanted to ask you, what do we need to think about to make our cities and neighborhoods better places for everyone?
Heather: [00:24:07] Oh, goodness, that’s a (laughter) really big question.
Eve: [00:24:11] Well, in terms of, even financing, you know, how can we make places more equitable and better places for everyone? Because we know that’s, we’re far, far from that, right?
Heather: [00:24:21] Yeah. Well, I had the good fortune of studying in Denmark and living in Copenhagen for only six months in 1988, but I have never forgotten it.
Eve: [00:24:30] Oh, lucky you.
Heather: [00:24:32] Yeah. Yeah. I was supposed to go back this May, just for … and I can’t because of COVID, but absolutely in love with the Scandinavian way thinking about this. Where you’ve got big taxes and they carefully pour them back into the public realm, in both services and in the physical landscape. And so what we have here, it seems like we just think in terms of, maybe, you think of all the properties as being separate, and maybe there’s some design codes and zoning codes that keep things what we think is harmonious, but we still think of them as separate. And the only thing that ties things together is the streets. And did you do know that about 25 percent of most urban landscapes is streets. And in suburbs, even more.
Eve: [00:25:15] Oh, yeah. And they’re very highly occupied by cars, instead of pedestrians.
Heather: [00:25:20] Yeah. So those are the things that hold us symbolically, if you think about that, that cars and concrete and, or not concrete, asphalt is what ties all these things together. And that doesn’t set the mood the right way. So, if we thought of these places as for everyone and we put much more emphasis in the public realm, that would be a really good start. But what do we want to put there? Asking the people who are there and really listening to them and learning from other places. And getting ideas and making trade-offs and so people don’t think that they’re going to get everything, but make conscious decisions about what they prefer. I think that would be a great way to start. In order to execute we need those public dollars. Goodness gracious, I don’t even know, 10 times the scale that we have now, to, to have that. Yeah.
Eve: [00:26:10] People have spoken about that. If you think about the Open Streets program … I launched an Open Streets in Pittsburgh, and it’s been wildly successful. People just love it. That is a lineal park for one day a month. It really should be a lineal park the whole time. But they flock to events like that all over the country, all over the world, and that’s kind of speaking to what people want, right?
Heather: [00:26:37] Yeah, well, when I took my son to Disneyland, I was fascinated at how much Disneyland had so much public space and walkability and water features and cafe-like settings. And I find it fascinating that we are, as a culture, willing to pay enormous amounts of money to have that experience as if it’s an entertainment, rather than to pay enormous amounts of money into our own environment, to have that same sort of actual feeling on a daily basis … with the Open Streets and the way that cafe culture has come back and outdoor beer gardens have come back, where you can see that there’s a hunger there. I think we just haven’t quite figured out how to go beyond the property line.
Eve: [00:27:28] Yeah, but Copenhagen sure has.
Heather: [00:27:31] Oh yeh.
Eve: [00:27:31] Get easily run over by a bike there. A beautiful city.
Heather: [00:27:36] I love it.
Eve: [00:27:37] One other questions, what community engagement tools have you seen that have really worked?
Heather: [00:27:41] Oh …
Eve: [00:27:42] You talk about really listening.
Heather: [00:27:44] Yeah. So, Eve, I’m calling that into question myself and I have seen people demonstrate what’s possible using apps, for stakeholders to put in their preferences, or to note where there is a click it – fix it, kind of, I see a pothole or speed bump problem or whatever, or a tree is dying …
Eve: [00:28:04] Yes.
Heather: [00:28:05] … those things seem pretty good.
Heather: [00:28:08] Admittedly, my planning thesis in grad school,1997, was about how planners could engender democracy through better participation. And I had a particular angle on how that could happen, which was making sure people had the information that they need, and a forum for conversation and decision-making. I stand by that, except I don’t know what the best technique is. I’ve been searching for that for over two decades. It is not an evening meetings …
Eve: [00:28:38] No, for sure.
Heather: [00:28:38] …in a dank community room with somebody with a mic and people sitting in cold chairs with cold food and no child care and no language translation, listening to somebody say here’s, responding to a plan that’s already been pretty well baked. It’s not that. It’s not endless council meetings that go until 1:00 in the morning. You know, there’s a private organization that I’ve been inspired by, called SUDA it’s the developer Alan Jones and Regina Davis, who are doing a really interesting project in West Oakland. And to hear how they got community feedback was really interesting because it wasn’t necessarily these meetings. It was spending a good deal of time, and I mean years, in a community like West Oakland and listening to what people were saying on the streets and going to barbecues and churches and hearing what it was that was on people’s minds, and forming relationships with people more in the immediate surrounds of the West Oakland BART where they’re going to be doing four blocks of development. So, that they were building up a sensibility for what the community said it wanted and building the trustful relationships to then eventually present an idea, and respond to that in an iterative basis. So, something along the lines of actually really listening, and taking your time with it, and not just doing an app, but some face-to-face activity seems to be on to something.
Eve: [00:30:22] Yeah, yeah. That’s a lot of work for tiny developers. I think, you know, we’ve got to figure out something better.
Heather: [00:30:29] Well, the city planners who are doing the neighborhood planning or the district planning could be doing a lot of that over time and then let the smaller developers who are filling in hear all about it, take the time to do that.
Eve: [00:30:44] Yeah, I’m hoping that equity crowdfunding can play a little role too, because you know my platform, anyone over the age of 18 can invest, and I think if people can have a stake in development in their own neighborhoods, that’s certainly what I learnt in Pittsburgh, that people wanted to have a stake. So, it doesn’t have to be very big. It’s just, meaningful.
Heather: [00:31:05] Yeah.
Eve: [00:31:06] And then someone else talked to me about ‘power mapping,’ which I thought was really interesting as well. An interesting idea to kind of understand where the power in a neighborhood lies and talking to those people, and really, I suppose, I’d want to say enlisting their help, but that, it’s like almost like a pyramid, reaching everyone in the neighborhood. I thought it was really fascinating.
Heather: [00:31:31] There’s ‘power mapping,’ and there’s ’em-power mapping.’ Because in the power mapping we tend to want to go to the people who hold the power to make the shifts and create the influence we need. But we also have the opportunity to figure out, well, who doesn’t have power who should.
Eve: [00:31:47] Oh, I think all of that.
Heather: [00:31:49] Yeah, yeah, it’s hard to do. All of this takes a great deal of time, and in our lives when everybody’s rushing to get things done. Like we all do …
Eve: [00:31:59] Yes.
Heather: [00:31:59] Or rushing to sort of make sure that things are going to pencil out. It’s very hard to slow down a little bit and do that, although it can really go a long way. I’m excited about the crowdfunding you’re talking about. I mean, at one level, real estate always been crowdfunded, it’s just bigger chunks and formal legal entities, and to have it available to the individuals. It sounds so neat and interesting, I can’t wait to see it where it goes. It also seems like we don’t learn about design, often, or construction, or how cities are made or all the systems that go into that, in our American school system. And so, kinda no wonder we haven’t really built up a sensibility for it. And I’m thinking that maybe through crowdfunding, people will feel more connected to whatever it is that they have invested in.
Eve: [00:32:46] Perhaps. It requires a lot of education, but I suppose everything does. So, what’s next for you? I mean, the big project, that you can talk about or anything that’s got your interest at the moment.
Heather: [00:33:00] Well, I have a team of about 15 people in the Northern California office at Enterprise. We have, typically we have a San Francisco office and a Stockton office, but right now everybody’s home. I am excited to have, to work with such a great team and we’ve organized ourselves around a couple different big principles. And so just getting to organize ourselves and be clear about that is important. And we have two things. One is strengthening community resilience, and the other is building sustainable neighborhoods. So, one is about making sure that we’re sort of holding ground in neighborhoods and help people figure out how to stay where they are, if they want to stay. That’s through renter protection work or preservation work, like we talked about earlier. And work in public housing, and then also in resilience, and by that I mean both community resilience in a cultural way but responding to all these disasters, the fires and earthquakes and all the stuff that is happening in California. So, it’s sort of having gotten clear with the team about that’s what we’re about. In that body of work it’s about strengthening community resilience in a myriad of different ways. And then the other part is creating these big new systems. Like, I’m really excited that my team and I had this idea that there really ought to be a regional housing entity, that the little city, the many cities just don’t have the bandwidth or chops and finances to execute that they mean well to do for affordable and market rate housing. But at the regional scale it makes more sense. And so feeling very, very happy that this has been accepted by the state legislature and the governor and we’re actually doing it here in this region with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and ABAG.
Eve: [00:34:46] That’s fabulous.
Heather: [00:34:48] Yeah, it is. And it’s just a fantastic group of people who really want to see it happen. So those things are exciting for me. I also think that there’s something exciting happening, in general, which is that maybe one of the silver linings of this awful pandemic that is so awful for so many people. And it’s … going to bring down potentially our whole economy. In all of that …
Eve: [00:35:16] Yes.
Heather: [00:35:17] … we might get a chance to rethink zoning and think about how, you know, you can’t shelter in place if you don’t have shelter. Therefore, it’s in all of our self-interest to really make sure that everybody has a home. So, I’m excited that maybe this has been a real wake up call that will help my industry hurry up and figure out how to get out of our own way and make sure that people are not homeless and people have safe places for their souls to rest that they can call home.
Eve: [00:35:52] Yes, I think that’s a really exciting end, and I really enjoyed our conversation, and hope your work meets great success and I’ll, I’ll be following it.
Heather: [00:36:03] Thank you, Eve. It’s really nice to hear your story too.
Eve: [00:36:16] That was Heather Hood. She’s fully immersed in the affordable housing crisis, working to help solve it in Northern California. Heather believes that NIMBYism has failed us along with zoning, too. We need to permit higher density to fill the need, and it takes far too long to get permission to build a building. The production line needs to be sped up dramatically. Heather’s also astonished that we’ll spend a fortune visiting places like Disneyland, where we can enjoy walkability, but we won’t spend that on the places we live in. I’m right there with her. You can find out more about Impact Real estate investing and access the show notes for today’s episode at my website EvePicker.com. While you’re there, sign up for my newsletter to find out more about how to make money in real estate while building better cities.
Eve: [00:37:18] Thank you so much for spending your time with me today, and thank you for sharing your thoughts. We’ll talk again soon. But for now, this is Eve Picker signing off to go make some change.
Image courtesy of Heather Hood, Enterprise Community Partners