The San Pablo Avenue Corridor extends about a mile north of downtown Oakland, California. Like many other low-income neighborhoods and communities of color across the United States—including Detroit, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles—it’s an area hit hard by decades of disinvestment in housing, schools, jobs, and services for local residents. Compared to their neighbors in the prosperous Oakland Hills, the nearly 8,000 residents around San Pablo Avenue can expect to live 14 years less on average.

Expanding access to affordable housing along the avenue is essential to equitable community development. When residents don’t have affordable places to live, the stress on families and neighborhoods can have dangerous implications. Individual and family health, and educational achievement suffer, and interactions with police and the justice system become more common. Right now, a lack of housing means that populations already more susceptible to COVID-19 are at even greater risk, because they literally cannot shelter in place.

A collaborative entity called the San Pablo Area Revitalization Collaborative (SPARC) is putting this “housing-plus” approach to the test. Residents, community-based organizations, and others are partnering with nonprofits and government to build nearly 400 new units of affordable housing in Oakland within the next five years—plus, implementing a range of other projects and services. SPARC’s work, together with other Oakland initiatives in communities like Chinatown and Fruitvale, rests on four cornerstones that funders, community development organizations, and others can use in their own efforts to build stronger, healthier communities.

  1. Preserving Culture 
  2. Centering Community Power and Voice 
  3.  Collaborating Across Sectors 
  4.  Connecting Housing and Services 

Read the full article about connecting housing and community by Charise Fong, Romi Hall & Jill Kunishima at Stanford Social Innovation Review.