Success of the Homes for All Pilot Program

As the grant period for our Equity in OC and the Social Determinants of Health implementation project comes to a close, we reflect on how this project has informed our organization as a whole. The Homes For All (Viviendas Para Todos) programming in Fullerton aimed to bring positive change in the housing landscape. By focusing on grassroots organizing and coalition building, the project sought to amplify diverse voices within the YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard) movement, particularly those with lived experiences related to the housing crisis.

As part of the multi-city project, we targeted rent-burdened census tracts in the city of Fullerton. Through collaboration with four neighboring Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) (The Center for Healthy Neighborhoods, Solidarity, OCCO, and Voces Unidas) the project unveiled three key findings:

  1. Long-term residents face a risk of displacement due to regularly increasing rents outpacing monthly incomes.
  2. The typical apartment size– 2 bedrooms– does not accommodate larger family sizes. There is a need for advocacy efforts to focus on creating larger-sized units (3+ BR) in affordable developments.
  3. In addition to overcrowding, residents are living in units with poor maintenance conditions, all of which have negative health implications for physical health, mental well-being, and public safety. 

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Our advocacy training program sought to address these issues. Over 30 Spanish-speaking community members participated in the program, covering a range of topics such as housing as a social determinant of health, basics of land use and residential zoning, understanding affordable housing, and exploring city and state policies supporting affordable housing. The curriculum also included a dedicated session on making public comments at public meetings, along with information and resources on tenant protections under current California state law.

The implementation of the Homes for All program underscored the importance of equitable access to information. Recognizing information as a form of power-sharing within equity efforts, the program applied an equity lens to its pedagogical framework. Participants praised the inclusion of the curriculum in their language, emphasizing the importance of cultural inclusivity in community engagement.

 

Testimonials from our Homes for All program participants highlight the transformative impact on their lives. Andrea, who navigates life with disabilities, emphasizes the program’s role in educating her about diverse accessible housing options, including townhouses and apartments. Marta underscores the eye-opening journey, stressing the importance of tenant rights and envisioning future homeownership. Blanca advocates for legislative changes and sees increased affordable housing as a catalyst for community security and improved mental well-being. Paula values the program’s insights into navigating housing systems and defends tenant rights, emphasizing the need for more housing, parks, and schools in Fullerton. Araceli, an immigrant, praises the program for assisting newcomers in understanding U.S. housing options and financial realities, contributing to their aspirations for homeownership and a better future for their families. To read more of our resident testimonials, follow us on Instagram

As of January 2024, the impact of the Homes For All initiative in Fullerton is evident. In January, we spread the word about the city of Fullerton’s community hearing on their recent Housing Element compliance for public comment, and 13 of our Homes For All participants came to learn and be informed. Despite the present NIMBY sentiment in the room, our residents were there to represent the interests of their community who would benefit most from seeing more affordable housing built in their community. The success of the program lies in its ability to empower community members to actively engage in shaping policies and advocating for positive change in their neighborhoods.

The Homes For All pilot program in Fullerton highlights the importance of community-driven initiatives. By addressing the specific challenges faced by residents and providing them with the tools and knowledge to advocate for change, we have demonstrated the potential for grassroots efforts to create meaningful and long-lasting impact. The program’s focus on equity, both in access to information and cultural sensitivity, serves as a model for future community-driven initiatives seeking to address housing disparities and promote positive social change.

Our hope is to replicate this program in other cities in Orange County. We believe it is essential to inform low-income populations of color with knowledge of what they can do to see more affordable housing in their communities for the ones who need it most. Most importantly, the goal is to highlight the role of housing as a social determinant of health and a precursor to everything that comes after, such as employment stability, socioeconomic mobility, educational attainment , and public and mental health outcomes. 

Antonia Castro-Graham

Antonia Castro-Graham

Director of Energy Policy and Strategy, Americas for BayWa

Antonia is the Director of Energy Policy and Strategy, Americas for BayWa, a leading renewable energy project developer. Prior to this position she served as Vice President of a Public Affairs firm and spent more than twenty years working in local government. She served as the Deputy City Manager for the City of Fullerton and as the Assistant to the City Manager for the City of Huntington Beach. Ms. Graham led regional efforts and created the Orange County Recycling Market Development Zone and created a working group of cities to study community choice energy, eventually forming the Orange County Power Authority. She holds a BA in Political Science and American Studies and an MPA with a concentration in Public Finance from Cal State Fullerton (CSUF) as well as a a Master’s degree in Sustainability from Arizona State University. Ms. Graham also teaches courses focused on sustainability policy at CSUF and Cal Poly Pomona. Ms. Graham recently had a case study published in the book, Sustainable World: Approaches to Analyzing & Resolving Wicked Problems and was selected as the Arizona State University School of Sustainability Alumni of the Year (2018) and the 2022 CSUF MPA Alumni of the Year.

Natalia Hernandez

Natalia Hernandez

Housing Advocacy Community Organizer at People for Housing OC.

Natalia Hernandez serves as the current Housing Advocacy Community Organizer at People for Housing OC. She is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara with a degree in Political Science and Professional Writing Minor in Civic Engagement which became the foundation of her desire to promote equitable opportunities for marginalized populations. Natalia’s professional history consists of serving as an intern at nonprofit organizations such as The Learning Rights Law Center and The Santa Barbara Public Library Foundation as well as a published writer/editor for The Bottom Line Newspaper in Santa Barbara, CA.

Leonel Velazquez

Leonel Velazquez

Community Liaison at People for Housing OC.

Leonel Velazquez Rodríguez serves as the current Community Liaison at People for Housing OC. Leonel was educated at Cal State University Long Beach through its Community Scholars Program: Policy & Systems Change. Leonel believes that in order to be emphatic with the community, you must learn the community languages. He is a passionate advocate for bringing about systematic change from a culture of oppression to a culture of equity and firmly believes in the power of community voices coming together collectively to work towards a common good.

Jeff Gibson

Jeff Gibson

Communications and Campaign Consultant

Jeff Gibson is a Communications and Campaign Consultant with his firm Occidental Communications Group. Jeff has spent his career fighting to improve the lives of everyday employers, employees, families, and residents in California and across the country. As a longtime non-profit and corporate board member, the organizations he has helped found, lead, and serve have cared for children with cancer in over 200 hospitals globally, expanded physical education programs in more than 100 Southern California schools, and provided more than 1,000 holiday meals to homeless families in Costa Mesa through a door-to-door food drive.

David C. Smith

David C. Smith

Partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP

David C. Smith is a Partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP, providing legal counsel to land developers, conservation companies, for-profit and nonprofit organizations, and individuals at the intersection of law and government on land use entitlement, real estate development and regulatory compliance. His practice includes California’s climate change law (SB 375, AB 32, et al.) and water supply law (SB 211, SB 610), and state and federal endangered species acts. Other specific areas of focus are the McAteer-Petris Act, the federal Clean Water Act with the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act, the National Environmental Policy Act with the California Environmental Quality Act, and California’s planning and zoning laws.

Nishtha Mohindra

Nishtha Mohendra

Chief Program Officer, Families Forward

Nishtha Mohindra is the Chief Program Officer at Families Forward, a nonprofit based in Irvine. Families Forward is dedicated to helping families in crisis regain financial stability and self-sufficiency with resources such as food, housing, counseling, education and other support services. Nishtha has a master’s degree in Social Work and more than 10 years of experience working with adults and families on issues related to homelessness, health, violence against women, mental health and addiction, oppression, and family crises in diverse settings such as the United States, Canada, and India. She currently serves on the Continuum of Care Board for Orange County, recently received the 2022 40 under 40 award from the Irvine Commerce Chamber, and was included on the OC Register's 125 Most Influential list for 2022.

Rona Henry

Rona Henry

Retired, Lingnan Foundation and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Chairperson (Volunteer), Welcoming Neighbors Home, an Initiative of Tapestry Unitarian Universalist Congregation

Rona Henry retired from a 30-year career in philanthropy after serving in a variety of roles with including grant management and operations, national program management, program officer, financial officer and staff development. She now works nearly full-time as a volunteer advocate focusing on homelessness and affordable housing through the Welcoming Neighbors Home Initiative, a ministry of Tapestry, a Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Lake Forest, CA. Through service, education and advocacy, this ministry is striving to end homelessness in South Orange County. Rona is also an advocate for women's reproductive rights.

Daniel Gehman

Daniel Gehman

Principal Architect, Danielian Associates Architects + Planners

Daniel Gehman is the Principal Architect at Danielian Associates Architects + Planners, an architecture and planning firm dedicated to planning and designing trend-setting, forward-thinking homes and sustainable residential communities. Daniel is passionate about multifamily housing, loves working in dense urban and transit oriented environments, is sensitive to attainability, and is a big fan of modular construction solutions.

Ryan Aeh

Ryan Aeh

Senior Vice President, City Ventures

Ryan Aeh is the Senior Vice President, Land Acquisition for City Ventures in Irvine, CA as well as a Board Member on the Irvine Community Land Trust, a nonprofit dedicated to creating permanent and affordable housing in Irvine and Orange County. Ryan’s career over the past 20 years has been dedicated to the development of more than 2,500 homes in Southern California’s supply constrained coastal infill markets with experience in residential and retail real estate development. Notably, Ryan was named “40 Under 40” in Orange County by the Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce in 2019.