COPA Civic Academy Agitates 250 Around Housing Affordability

Hundreds of leaders from six institutions in the Monterey, California peninsula assembled for a civic academy on affordable housing organized by Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action (COPA).  Also in attendance were public officials including a Monterey County Supervisor, local city mayors, a school district superintendent and City of Monterey councilmembers.  Allied research, labor and advocacy nonprofits attended as well.

The academy started with a bilingual presentation about housing conditions in Monterey County which included specific metrics on the number of units needed and institutional barriers to their development.  One leader shared that as a result of taking good care of her unit, her landlord gave her 60 days to vacate so that their family could move in.  The leader and her family ended up living in their car when they could not find housing within that time frame.  Another leader, a senior who rented an apartment with her brother, shared that she could no longer afford the rent in the area after her brother died.  She is facing relocation to a city far from friends and family. 

Participants in the civic academy then split into smaller groups for fully bilingual small group conversations in which public officials listened.  The academy closed with select officials detailing opportunities for allied action around housing development and tenant protections.  All committed to working with COPA for change in this area.       

COPA has been organizing Housing Civic Academies across Monterey and Santa Cruz counties for the past few years to build a constituency interested in crafting solutions to the state’s housing crisis.  COPA-trained leaders have been successful in changing local policy, including increasing affordable housing requirements for future development areas in the City of Salinas.  
COPA has additionally supported projects that increase the supply of affordable housing, including the Pebble Beach Company’s efforts to build housing for members of its workforce   As angry neighbors attempted to shut down the project, local COPA leaders consistently showed up in public meetings ensure its passage.  

A few years back, COPA took a similar approach to get affordable housing built in Aptos, against strong local opposition.  At a recent Civic Academy at Resurrection Catholic Church, one man -- in front of an audience of 50 parishioners -- shared, “I was a big part of organizing the opposition to the affordable housing project here in Aptos… I held many of those stereotypes you have here, about crime, drugs, overcrowding, and declining property values.  Let me tell you now… that project is one of the best things to ever happen to our neighborhood.  It has brought new families and children into our community, we have regular community celebrations together… and I’m grateful to COPA for helping make that happen despite our attempts to stop it."

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