Mark Zuckerberg & Priscilla Chan
July 13, 2018

San Jose Mercury News: Facebook founder’s fund pledges $250,000 to back affordable housing ballot measure


SV@Home Deputy Director Pilar Lorenzana said the Veterans and Affordable Housing Act of 2018 (aka Proposition 1) will help alleviate the housing crisis during a recent conversation with San Jose Mercury News reporter Marisa Kendall, which took place in the wake of a $250,000 campaign contribution by Mark Zuckerberg to the Yes on Prop 1 campaign.

See the original story at the San Jose Mercury News.

Facebook founder’s fund pledges $250,000 to back affordable housing ballot measure

By Marisa Kendall

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative wants you to vote yes on Prop. 1 — a state ballot measure that would funnel money to affordable housing programs — and it’s ponying up $250,000 to help make sure that happens.

The initiative, started by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, said Monday it will donate the money to advance the Veterans and Affordable Housing Act of 2018, also known as Prop. 1. If approved by voters in November, the act will authorize the sale of $4 billion in bonds to fund various affordable housing and veterans assistance programs.

The $250,000 donation is the largest the Prop. 1 campaign has received so far, according to the California Secretary of State website, which tracks campaign expenditures.

The money will be “significant” in helping to win voters, said Pilar Lorenzana, deputy director of affordable housing advocacy organization SV@Home, which supports the ballot measure.

“A quarter of a million dollars is going to be very helpful,” she said, “because it’s going to be a very crowded ballot this year in November.”

The bill would help finance affordable housing programs and grants, infrastructure work and transit-oriented development. A quarter of the money would go specifically to programs that help veterans buy farms, homes and mobile homes. Supporters of the ballot measure include the League of California Cities, Habitat for Humanity California and the California Association of Veterans Services Agencies. Opponents include the lobbying group the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

Many of the people struggling to keep a roof over their heads in the Bay Area are veterans. Last year there were 660 homeless vets in Santa Clara County, according to the All the Way Home Campaign, which seeks to end veteran homelessness. There were 531 homeless vets in Alameda County, and 684 in San Francisco.

But the state’s sky-high real estate prices and rents, driven up by a shortage of available housing, are forcing Bay Area residents from all walks of life to move to the Central Valley and beyond in search of a cheaper cost of living.

“Prop. 1 gives help and hope to the many Californians who have been priced out of finding an affordable home in the communities they want to raise their families, work and thrive,” bill author Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, wrote in a news release. “Investing in Prop. 1 and affordable housing now makes good economic sense for all Californians and our communities.”

The $250,000 donation, which comes from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s advocacy fund, will go to Affordable Housing Now, the PAC supporting Prop. 1. It will be used to fund marketing and outreach in support of the ballot measure.

Monday’s donation is the latest effort by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to promote affordable housing — one of the organization’s main priorities. In November the organization gave $500,000 to support a collaboration of affordable housing nonprofits. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative also has contributed to the TechEquity Collaborative, which advocates for affordable housing solutions, and Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, which provides aid to families facing eviction and other legal challenges.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has been active in supporting local affordable housing efforts, Lorenzana said, but it’s especially encouraging to see the organization step up to back state-level policies. She hopes other tech-backed funds will follow suit.

“This is something that we really need,” Lorenzana said, “and hopefully the rest of the sector pays attention and jumps in as well.”