Ensuring Opportunity

Contra Costa Housing Update and Call to Action

In this post:

  • Upcoming Contra Costa Housing Town Halls – save the date(s)!
  • Call to Action: Contact your state legislators today about SB 2 and SB 3
  • Regional housing webinar on Sept. 15


Ensuring Opportunity and the Multi-Faith ACTION Coalition will co-host five regional Housing Town Halls in September and October. Every member of the County Board of Supervisors has committed to hosting a Housing Town Hall in their district.

Everyone who lives, works or has an interest in a particular region of the county is warmly welcome to attend the Town Halls. Our goal is to share information about the scope of the housing crisis countywide and in each district, and to learn from residents how they are affected by the crisis and which solutions will most help their local community.

Please join us and add your voice to the conversation! Please invite your colleagues, friends and neighbors as well. All Town Hall events are on Saturday mornings from 9:30-noon. We’ll share additional information on event locations once confirmed.

Town Hall dates:

September 23 in Antioch (co-hosted by Supervisor Diane Burgis, District 3)

September 30 in Richmond (co-hosted by Supervisor John Gioia, District 1)

October 14 in Alamo (co-hosted by Supervisor Candace Andersen, District 2), at the San Ramon Valley United Methodist Church

October 21, in Martinez (Co-hosted by Supervisor Federal Glover, District 5)

October 28 in Concord (co-hosted by Supervisor Karen Mitchoff, District 4)


Before the summer recess began, the Governor and Legislative Leadership announced a new housing package that would include much-needed new funding for affordable housing.

Here are two bills that need your support TODAY.

SB 2: Building Homes and Jobs Act

Senate Bill 2 creates a permanent source of funding for affordable housing development by imposing a $75 fee on real estate transaction documents, excluding residential and commercial property sales. To learn more about this bill, read Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California’s (NPH) Fact Sheet. 

SB 3: Affordable Housing Bond Act

Senate Bill 3 would place a $3 billion statewide general obligation bond for affordable housing on the November 2018 ballot. The bond will fund existing and successful affordable housing programs in California, including Multifamily Housing, CalHome, and Local Housing Trust Fund Matching Grant, with the intent of addressing the housing stock shortage. Please contact your state legislator to ask them to support funding for affordable housing by voting YES on SB 2 and SB 3.

Take action now by clicking HERE.


September 15, 10:00-11:30 AM

Non-Profit Housing of Northern California (NPH) and Rise Together’s Power of 9 Housing Committee are organizing a 90-minute webinar on September 15 to discuss challenges and opportunities in addressing the affordable housing crisis in the Bay Area. The webinar is free. Register HERE.

What – and whom – should our next District Attorney stand for?


What – and whom – should our next District Attorney stand for?

The county’s choice of a new District Attorney can help end local poverty … or make it worse

By Mariana Moore
Ensuring Opportunity Campaign Director

Following the resignation of former District Attorney Mark Peterson in June after he pleaded guilty to perjury, the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors will act to appoint an interim District Attorney. Whomever the Board selects to fill the interim role will have the incumbent’s advantage leading up to the June 2018 election. More importantly, the new D.A. will have an important role in shaping the department’s culture, policies and practices. And right now, all of us have a unique opportunity to weigh in whom the Board will select.

The Supervisors met on August 1 and narrowed the list of applicants to five finalists. They have been invited to participate in a community forum at 6:00 pm this coming Tuesday, August 15, at 651 Pine Street in Martinez; details here. Whether or not you can attend, we encourage you to submit your questions to the forum moderator in advance, using the online form here.

The five finalists are Diana Becton, Danielle Douglas, Paul Graves, Thomas Kensok and Patrick Vanier. You can read their applications here, along with those of the other seven candidates who were not chosen.

A second District Attorney candidates’ forum will be held tomorrow (Saturday) from 12:30-3:00 p.m. This event is co-hosted by several resident groups and community organizations; details here.

Here’s why the D.A. appointment matters law

The goal of the Ensuring Opportunity is to end poverty in Contra Costa County by changing the systems and policies that get in the way of residents’ economic success. Our vision is that every resident and family living in our community has access to the resources and opportunities they need to support their family and thrive. To get there, every resident of our county must be treated with fairness, dignity and respect, regardless of income level, cultural background or immigration status.

The District Attorney has an important role to play in achieving this vision. There is a clear, evidence-based link between criminal justice policies and the level of economic opportunity that is available to residents. The policy choices that our District Attorney makes will have a profound impact on the lives of some of our community’s most vulnerable members. While the media often focus on the practices of police on the street, the policies set and enforced by the District Attorney also deeply affect the economic well-being of residents who interact with the criminal justice system.

That’s why the “Community Safety” section of Ensuring Opportunity’s Policy Framework highlights several current criminal justice policies that affect the economic well-being of local residents, including the criminalization of minor non-violent offenses, sharing inmate release dates with federal immigration authorities, charging high bail and fines, and seizing defendants’ property prior to conviction. These types of policies are outdated and wrong-headed, and have led to our current mass incarceration crisis. Together, these policies are keeping too many people from reaching their economic potential.

The new District Attorney must make it a priority to promote justice and fairness for all residents. They should enhance public safety for all residents, both victims of crime and residents charged with a crime. The District Attorney is required to live in Contra Costa. To earn our trust, they should be seen as a part of the community and as someone fellow residents trust to uphold the values of transparency, accountability and integrity.

The new District Attorney must be deeply committed to earning the community’s trust. She or he will need to rebuild public confidence, across all communities and all political perspectives, in the integrity and competence of the District Attorney’s office. It is especially important to create trust among residents who have historically been hurt by systemic injustices including racism, economic discrimination, and divisive immigration policies. What we have as a result is a system that harms residents who can’t afford cash bail or high fines and fees, let alone pay a private attorney. This is unacceptable.

The new District Attorney will surely come into office knowing there is much work to do to change external perceptions of the department’s performance and integrity. It will be important to examine the department’s culture and practices, as true change must come from the inside out. This type of internal examination can be difficult, but it’s essential – and our community’s safety depends on it.

What – and who – should the men and women aspiring to be our next District Attorney stand for? The answer is: integrity, transparency, fairness and justice, for all county residents.

Please join us at the community forums tomorrow and Tuesday to add your voice to the conversation. Our Board of Supervisors wants to hear from you. The decision they make will have critical and long-lasting impacts on whether everyone in our community truly has an opportunity to thrive.

Ensuring Opportunity Blog: Aligning our advocacy work with our values

Zuleika headshotBy Zuleika Godinez, Ensuring Opportunity Campaign

I recently attended the national YIMBYTown conference in Oakland to learn more about what policies Yes In My Back Yard (YIMBY) housing advocates are supporting. While I learned lots of useful information about the housing crisis, I also came away with an important message that applies to all policy leaders and advocates, not just to YIMBYs, which is this: Self-reflection and organizational values alignment are just as important as the external work that we do.

Keynote speaker Laura Loe (Bernstein), who is a housing activist with the YIMBY movement in Seattle, emphasized that housing advocates should ask ourselves how the policies we are proposing will impact communities of color and others who have been historically left out and marginalized. She added that we must be honest about who benefits from these proposed policies immediately, who stays and who has to leave, who is building wealth and who isn’t, and who is policed and who isn’t. She challenged housing advocates to take a step back to ask if we are truly listening to those most impacted by the housing crisis, and how we are supporting these folks’ leadership in creating solutions.

As advocates, we do our work with good intentions, but we must be willing to stop and acknowledge when our actions and policy positions are no longer aligned with our values. In coalition work – which is how most advocacy work gets done – this internal reflection is even more important.

As the policy coordinator for Ensuring Opportunity, I am involved with numerous coalitions and work with passionate, talented and deeply committed advocates. I’m encouraged to see that some of these coalitions have recently launched important internal conversations about values, intent and impact. Collectively, we are realizing that there are issues around process and values that must be addressed in order for our policy advocacy to be truly inclusive. Only then can we authentically work toward solutions that deeply embody the values of equity and justice as we strive to lift up our communities.

At the Ensuring Opportunity Campaign, equity is the core value that is most central to our work (see our Theory of Change). To ensure that everyone in our community thrives, we must do more than ensure equitable policies are in place. All of us working to end poverty must also challenge the assumptions and practices that sometimes create blind spots in the policy-making process itself. As Ghandi said near the end of his life, “There is no wall of separation between means and end.”

We invite you to reflect on the following questions in your own work:

  • Who is at the policy making tables I’m sitting at, and who is missing?
  • Who decides who is invited to these tables?
  • In order to lead with courage and compassion, what values do I hold that should frame and drive my work as a policy maker or advocate?
  • When am I acting in integrity with my core values and what do I do when I’m not?

We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments as we continue on this journey together.


Call to Action: Support SB 2 and AB 71

Thank you to all of you who attended Ensuring Opportunity’s Contra Costa Housing Forum earlier this week. As you heard, Tuesday’s convening was just the start of a much broader affordable housing strategy for Contra Costa.

Whether or not you were able to join us at the convening, we will soon send you a summary of the day’s conversations and ideas, and share our ideas on how you can get involved, contribute your wisdom, and keep the momentum going.

Meanwhile, we have an immediate, concrete action item we urge you to act on right now. Two important housing bills have reached a critical juncture in the state legislature, and community support is essential to keep these two bills moving through to adoption.


Please call your state legislators today to ask them to support funding for affordable housing by voting YES on SB 2 and AB 71.

SB 2: Building Homes and Jobs Act
This bill creates a permanent source of funding for affordable housing development by imposing a $75 fee on real estate transaction documents, excluding residential and commercial property sales. To learn more about this bill, read Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California’s (NPH) Fact Sheet. Click here to send your message of support.
AB 71: Bring California Home Act
This bill provides funding for affordable housing by eliminating the state mortgage interest deduction on vacation homes. By removing this subsidy, the state can save $300 million each year to expand rental opportunities for our seniors and people with disabilities, our veterans, and our lowest-wage earning Californians and their families. To learn more about this bill, read NPH’s Fact Sheet. Send an organizational support letter: click here to download (after clicking look in your downloads folder for the AB 71 support letter).

Ensuring Opportunity Blog: Fact: The solution to homelessness is housing

Lavonna Martin picBy Lavonna Martin, MPH, MPA, guest contributor

The ways in which communities across the country have addressed the complexity of homelessness over the past few decades is indeed varied, with mixed outcomes.  In my more than twenty years of working to end homelessness, I have seen the “solutions” shift from building more shelters, to developing transitional housing, to increasing on-demand behavioral health treatment and services. None of these solutions really addressed the root of the problem: the lack of housing.

Finally, we are beginning to look at homelessness through a public health lens – i.e., as a critical social determinant of health.  Housing that is long-term and affordable, along with access to health care, food and economic security, plays a critical role in supporting the health and well-being of all members of the community.

Housing must be addressed with the same determination in this country that compulsory education was 150 years ago, food security was in 1933 with the redistribution of food during the Great Depression, or economic security was with the establishment of the federal minimum wage law in 1938.  Because of these policies, residents in need of emergency health care cannot be denied treatment in emergency departments across this nation; yet every day, we deny people the dignity of housing.

Housing should be available and affordable to all who need it, from the recent high school graduate looking for her first job, to the senior citizen living on a fixed income, to the homeless family living in their car, the young adult who boomerangs back home, to the homeless veteran who is struggling to integrate back into the community.  All of us in Contra Costa deserve a safe, stable home that we can afford.

My vision for a healthy community is one in which all people have a sense of safety:  the real safety that comes from knowing we all have sufficient income to meet our basic needs, that our children are well-fed in both body and mind, and that each one of us has a regular, consistent, permanent place to lay our head at night. 

My hope is that we can join in this vision by ensuring that affordable and stable housing is a priority in Contra Costa.

Lavonna Martin is director of Contra Costa Health Services, Health, Housing, and Homeless Services, and a member of Ensuring Opportunity’s Leadership Team.

Ensuring Opportunity Campaign Blog: Contra Costa Resident Shares Her Housing Story

(English version after Spanish)

Por Dolores Ramos

Tuvimos que dejar nuestra última casa por culpa del propietario. Nos acusó de mala conducta. No creo que hicimos nada malo y siempre pagamos nuestro alquiler a tiempo, pero el propietario nos dijo que teníamos que salir de la casa, así que nos salimos.

Mi esposo, mi hija y yo nos sentimos afortunados de haber encontrado otra casa rápidamente, pero es mucho más pequeño y ahora tenemos que pagar el doble de la renta que estábamos pagando en la otra casa. También tenemos que compartir la casa de dos dormitorios y un baño con otra mujer. Ojalá mi familia tuviera nuestro propio espacio, pero es difícil encontrar una vivienda económica aquí.

La mujer que vive conmigo también había sido desalojada. Recientemente, mi compañero de trabajo me dijo que recibió un aumento de alquiler y tuvo que mudarse más lejos de nuestro trabajo para encontrar algo más económico. Tengo muchos otros amigos y compañeros de trabajo que han tenido que mudarse más lejos.

Mi niña está sintiendo el impacto de nuestra situación de vivienda. Tener que pagar más renta significa que tengo menos recursos para llevar a mi hija a divertirse. Un presupuesto más apretado nos deja con menos que hacer. Ahora paso tiempo pensando cómo voy a poder pagar mi renta, sobre todo porque nunca sé cuándo vendrá un aumento de renta, o peor un desalojo. No quiero perder mi vivienda.

Es difícil ganar suficiente dinero para pagar alquileres cada vez mayores. Mi esposo y yo trabajamos duro, pero el dinero que ganamos está cubriendo cada vez menos nuestras necesidades. Queremos proveer a nuestra hija con un hogar agradable en una comunidad hermosa. Me gusta vivir en Concord. He estado aquí por mucho tiempo, y aquí es donde está mi comunidad, pero no sé cuánto tiempo más voy a poder quedarme aquí.

Quiero que hagamos más por las personas que están luchando y están trabajando duro para asegurarnos que tengan opciones de vivienda económicas en las comunidades que ellos aprecian. Quiero que todos los niños de nuestra comunidad tengan un hogar seguro. Los niños son lo que más importa.

Dolores Ramos vive en Concord y es una miembra del Grupo Regional del Centro del Condado, Primeros 5

(English version)

By Dolores Ramos

We had to leave our last home because the landlord accused us of misbehaving. I don’t believe we did anything wrong and we always paid our rent on time, yet the landlord told us we had to leave the house, so we did.

My husband, daughter, and I are fortunate to have found another home quickly, but it is much smaller and we now have to pay twice the amount of rent we were paying at the other house. We also have to share the two-bedroom, one-bathroom house with another woman. I wish my family had our own space, but it is difficult to find affordable housing here.

The woman who lives with me had also been evicted by her landlord. Just recently, my coworker told me she received a rent increase and had to move farther away from our job to find something more affordable. I have many other friends and coworkers that have had to move farther away.

My young daughter is feeling the impact of our housing situation. Having to pay more rent means I have fewer resources to take my daughter out to have fun. We use to do more fun activities, but a tighter budget leaves us with less to do. Now I spend a lot of time stressing about how I will be able to afford my rent, especially since I never know when a rent increase will come, or even worse an eviction. I do not want to lose my housing.

It is difficult to earn enough money to afford increasing rents. My husband and I work hard, but the money we earn is covering less and less of our necessities. We want to provide our daughter with a nice home in a beautiful community. I like living in Concord. I have been here for a long time, and this is where my community is, but I don’t know how much longer I will be able to stay here.

I want us to do more for people who are struggling to make ends meet and who are working hard, to make sure that they have affordable housing options in the communities that they cherish. I want all the children in our community to have a safe home. The kids are what matter most.

Dolores Ramos is a resident of Concord and a member of the Central County Regional Group, First 5

Ensuring Opportunity Campaign Blog: Why Housing Matters for East Bay Employers


By Kristin Connelly, Guest contributor from the East Bay Leadership Council

The East Bay is an amazing place to live. Unfortunately, too many residents fear growth will impact their quality of life and say “not in my backyard.” These residents pressure elected officials to limit any new homes added to their neighborhood. This NIMBY resistance, a tax structure that disincentivizes housing, and regulations that make building increasingly expensive combined to create a full-blown crisis.

Everyone who lives and works here feels the effects of that housing crisis every day.

Employers feel it when they lose an important member of their team to a lower-cost state. They feel it in a workforce that is increasingly unhappy and unhealthy thanks to long traffic-jammed commutes. They feel it when productivity suffers and profits decline.

If we want to ensure that employees can live near their work and employers can retain talent at a price that allows for growth, then we need to focus on getting more housing built now. The East Bay Leadership Council led by hundreds of employers supports increasing the housing supply by all means necessary. Here are a few ways:

  • Streamline regulations that slow housing construction and are steered too often by NIMBYs
  • Decrease costs of housing construction to ensure that high-quality housing gets built
  • Promote accessory dwelling units and traditional housing development near transit
  • Reform tax policy to incentivise cities to approve more housing

Members of the EBLC can join the conversation and help shape our advocacy agenda at our monthly Land Use Task Force meetings. Visit eastbayleadershipcouncil.com to learn more.

Kristin Connelly is the President and CEO of the East Bay Leadership Council and a member of the Ensuring Opportunity Campaign Leadership Team.

Join Ensuring Opportunity Campaign on June 20 at the Pleasant Hill Community Center to learn more about what together we can do to create a more inclusive Contra Costa.

We look forward to seeing you on June 20.

Register Here

Invitation -E-Blast final

Contra Costa can do better!

A recent analysis by the Urban Institute found that in 2014 there were only 33 affordable and available units for every 100 extremely low-income renter households in Contra Costa. Extremely low-income households have an income at or below 30 percent of the area median income. Extremely low-income households were defined as those bringing in $27,600 or less. In Contra Costa, there were more than 34,000 extremely low-income renter households.

This means that two out of three extremely low-income families in our county spend more than 30% of their earnings on their rent, leaving fewer resources to spend on other essential needs such as child care, food, and healthcare.

We can do better than this!

Together, Contra Costa residents can influence the community rules and policies that shape our cities and neighborhoods and the type of homes that are available. We must work together to ensure that affordable housing choices are available for all residents in our communities.

Join Ensuring Opportunity Campaign on June 20 at Pleasant Hill Community Center to learn more about what we can do to create a more inclusive Contra Costa.

See our Contra Costa Housing Forum webpage for more details. Registration coming soon.

Ensuring Opportunity Campaign Endorses SB 54 and Local Sanctuary Policies

Ensuring Opportunity Campaign has heard from many partners that the national immigration policy changes are causing many Contra Costa residents to withdraw from the community and to live in fear. These federal actions threaten the safety of local children and parents, and harm the well-being of our community as a whole. In response to these federal actions, state and local leaders are mobilizing to support local sanctuary policies and SB 54, the California Values Act, to ensure our state and cities continue to be a place that welcomes immigrants and looks after the wellbeing of all residents, regardless of immigration status.

This week the Ensuring Opportunity staff brought to the Campaign Leadership Team a request to endorse SB 54 and local sanctuary policies. The Leadership Team agreed to endorse these polices in order to ensure all immigrant residents can feel safe, be less likely to withdraw from the safety net services that they are eligible for, and pursue the life they want for themselves and their families in Contra Costa.

Brief Overview

SB 54 California Values Actca_values_act_logo

The goal of SB 54 is to protect the safety and well-being of all Californians by prohibiting the use of state and local resources for mass deportations, to separate families, or divide Californians based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, immigration status, or national or ethnic origins.  Specifically, SB 54 will:

  • Prohibit state and local law enforcement and school police and security from assisting in immigration enforcement. This includes investigating, detaining, reporting, or arresting residents for immigration enforcement purposes. Local law enforcement will only be permitted to detain or transfer a resident for deportation when there is a judicial warrant.
  • Prohibit using state and local resources to create a national registry based on religion or other protected characteristic.
  • Direct state agencies to review confidentiality policies to ensure that eligible individuals can seek services from state agencies without regard to their immigration status.
  • Require schools, hospitals, and courthouses to establish policies that limit immigration enforcement on their premises as is consistent with federal law.

For more details see: SB 54 Fact Sheet

Local Sanctuary Policies

The goal of sanctuary or welcoming policies is to establish safe havens for all immigrant residents. Sanctuary status has no clear legal definition, but the majority of sanctuary polices state that the jurisdiction will not cooperate in federal or immigration enforcement efforts.

For more information see Additional Resources on our website.

Contra Costa’s nonprofit community takes action to protect local immigrants

San Pablo council considers sanctuary city ordinance March 2017

Residents packed the San Pablo city council chambers on March 6 to support the city’s proposed resolution in support of all cit residents, regardless of immigration status. The resolution passed by a 4-1 vote.

National immigration policy changes are causing many Contra Costa residents to withdraw from the community and to live in fear. Recent federal actions threaten the safety of local children and parents, and harm the well-being of our community as a whole. In response to these threats, community organizations in Contra Costa are mobilizing to support their clients and staff members who are immigrants.

The Ensuring Opportunity Campaign sent a survey last week to nonprofit organizations across Contra Costa County to find out what they are doing to protect their clients and staff who are immigrants. We wanted to find out what impacts these organizations are seeing, what actions they’re already taking, what steps they’re considering, and what they’re interested in learning more about to protect the community members they work with and serve.

We learned that many organizations are proactively working to address the needs of immigrant clients and staff, and that they have a strong desire to learn what more they can do. While many organizations are not yet reporting a significant decrease in client participation in their programs, many are very concerned that this may happen.

Thank you to our community partners who participated in the survey and who shared it with your networks. In just five days, we received 66 responses, representing 58 organizations that provide services to residents throughout Contra Costa County.

Summary of survey findings

(Read the full report here)

Impact on services:
Twenty percent of respondents report that fewer immigrants are now participating with their organizations. Two-thirds of respondents have not yet seen a significant decline in participation, but say they are concerned.

“We are hearing (about) greater impact from similar agencies in areas with greater immigrant populations, and we anticipate we’ll experience more (negative impacts) as circumstances get worse.”

Hate crimes and hiding:
Forty-one percent of respondents reported noticing an increase in racial hate incidents. Twenty-eight percent said they know of children whose parents have pulled them out of school.

“Among undocumented immigrants, there is a tremendous amount of fear and uncertainty. Among Muslim refugees and immigrants, there is more fear of hate being directed at them and their children.”

Local organizations are taking bold steps to help immigrants.

The top four actions Contra Costa organizations are taking include:

  1. Communicating with clients and residents about potential threats and resources
  2. Protecting and anonymizing client data
  3. Talking with their board of directors about their agency’s response to the needs of clients and staff members who are immigrants
  4. Advocating for policies (such as sanctuary city/county/state) that will help immigrants feel safer.

What organizations are hungry for to help them protect immigrants:

The top five activities organizations are interested in learning more about include:

  1. Joining rapid response teams and networks.
  2. Providing Know Your Rights workshops for clients and other residents.
  3. Adopting an organization policy regarding sanctuary/welcoming space.
  4. Meeting/advocating with local police regarding their policies on cooperating with ICE.
  5. Helping families who have been separated due to deportations.


Click here to read the full report on the survey findings.

What you can do:
  • Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter, so we can share and support your immigration-related events, services and activities.
  • Share these survey results with your networks.
How Ensuring Opportunity can help your organization and clients:
  • Visit our new Resources for Immigrant Communities page. On this page, you will find information about:
    • A summary of what’s happening in Contra Costa County, including which jurisdictions and organizations have adopted sanctuary or welcoming policies, and a list of organizations and coalitions that are working on immigration issues.
    • A calendar of upcoming events throughout the county, including Know Your Rights trainings and forums for community-based organizations.
    • A list of resources covering everything from sanctuary spaces to immigrants’ rights. Email Zuleika Godinez, Policy Coordinator for Ensuring Opportunity to add your resources and events to our resource page. We will update the website frequently.
  • We are meeting with local community partners and coalitions to explore how Ensuring Opportunity can support various efforts underway across the county to protect local immigrants and support those who work with and serve them. Please contact us if you would like to be a part of these planning conversations.