Housing for Health and Wealth: Greenlining’s Approach to Advancing Housing Justice and Resilience
Housing is a human right, a right intrinsically connected to nearly every aspect of our economic and environmental well-being. Prosperity isn’t just an economic indicator, it’s the health and wealth of an individual, a family, and a community. Yet, our economic system views housing as a commodity–not a right–which means profits drive housing policy, not people.
Greenlining’s vision for the future is one where housing contributes to healthy, resilient communities for all. We believe that everyone should be able to live in a home that is affordable, safe, resilient to the impacts of climate change, and contributes to equitable wealth-building rather than dragging people down further into debt. Yet, for historically disinvested communities of color and low-income communities, the future we envision is far from our reality today.
We believe that everyone should be able to live in a home that is affordable, safe, resilient to the impacts of climate change, and contributes to equitable wealth-building rather than dragging people down further into debt
Everyday we can read news of “the housing crisis” in California and across the country, but the pain of this crisis is not borne equally. For example, the majority of Black and Latinx renter households are considered housing cost burdened – spending more than 30% of their monthly income on housing expenses alone. Owning a home is the primary way most Americans build family wealth, yet what used to be a modest goal is out of reach for most people of color in California.
Access to safe and affordable lending is far from equitable with potential Black and Latinx homebuyers held back from accessing mortgages commensurate with their share of the population. This lack of access is even greater for women of color who, despite making up 30% of California’s population, received just 8 percent of home purchase loans from the state’s top lenders. For years, Greenlining has worked on increasing access to homeownership through our home mortgage data analysis of the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act to highlight the disparities in accessing fair lending for communities of color and low-income borrowers.
And even being in a home doesn’t guarantee a safe, long-term living environment as the effects of climate change threaten more and more of California’s communities. Formerly redlined communities sit on the front lines of these challenges, enduring more severe climate impacts like extreme temperatures and higher flood risk, with limited resources to withstand and recover from climate disasters. These communities, mostly communities of color, are also more likely to consist of older homes in need of more and costlier modifications to prepare for these increased risks.
These are just a small handful of the complex housing issues we face with no simple solutions, but they are challenges Greenlining is ready to meet head-on. While one organization alone cannot address every aspect of the complex, multifaceted nature of our various housing crises, our approach to policy lies at the critical intersection of race, economy, climate and transformational change.
Our team works to increase the quantity of and access to affordable housing, while also striking a balance with efforts to create equitable, climate resilient communities. We can and will do both. We will do this by breaking down racist barriers that have left out communities of color from housing and homeownership and working with communities and centering community priorities to rapidly build housing while maintaining strong environmental protections.
Today, we offer our new housing platform for addressing the housing needs of our communities and dedicate ourselves to the mission of reversing the legacy of redlining that pervades housing across California. Our platform is defined by five core strategies through which we will:
- Acknowledge the legacy of racism and injustice in the housing market and advance anti-racist policies that promote housing as a human right.
- Invest in strategies to promote justice and resilience in the most impacted and vulnerable communities.
- Equitably increase access to capital, economic, and homeownership opportunities for people of color in California.
- Reduce barriers to climate resilient communities by increasing density in opportunity-rich neighborhoods and supporting all communities to become opportunity rich, working with communities and centering their priorities to rapidly build housing while maintaining strong environmental protections.
- Increase access to affordable housing by promoting the production of new supply, preserving existing affordable homes, and encouraging equitable land use to reduce the cost to build, meet community needs and achieve California’s climate goals.
These strategies are our north star and guide toward how we intend to shape our activities in the next few years. In a more practical sense, they serve as the basis for the actions and campaigns we will lead and engage in with our partner organizations, policymakers, and other stakeholders in our intersectional policy spaces, including:
- Ensuring equitable funding: Ensuring that the distribution of public funds to increase affordable housing throughout the state is done equitably, with the vast majority of those funds going to housing for our lowest-income residents, and that we are developing new ways to dedicate ongoing sources of revenue to these ends;
- Unlocking private capital: Working with financial institutions to direct private funds toward communities of color and underserved areas to increase investments in affordable housing, expand access to capital and affordable lending opportunities, and develop new lending and grant programs specifically targeted toward increasing housing affordability and ownership within communities of color;
- Increasing production and preservation of existing affordable housing: Identifying existing bureaucratic barriers to production and preservation of affordable housing and collaboratively developing principled solutions to remove these impediments while maintaining California’s strong and hard-fought environmental protections;
- Incubating creative strategies: Incubating concepts and working with our partners to develop alternative models for housing ownership that generate community wealth-building opportunities; and,
- Advancing intersectional climate equity solutions: Advancing intersectional climate equity solutions that promote building decarbonization, electrification, resiliency, and equitable transit and transportation opportunities.
The effects of intentional disinvestment by governments and financial institutions can only be reversed with intentional reinvestment in the communities of color that have been held back for far too long from opportunities to build stable, healthy, and wealthy futures for themselves and the generations to come. Greenlining’s intersectional approach to equitable housing offers a roadmap to get us to that abundant future.
If you’d like to learn more about our work to increase the quantity of and access to affordable housing and to break down racist barriers that have left out communities of color from housing and homeownership, please check out our website and connect with us if you have any questions or are ready to engage as we build toward this future together.
Contact: Holden Weisman, Senior Director of Economic Equity, firstname.lastname@example.org