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Facebook aims to expand affordable housing efforts

The goal is to increase funding to $75 million

Facebook has named two organizations to manage the financing of affordable housing efforts in Menlo Park and East Palo Alto and to expand the funds available to $75 million from the current $18.5 million.

The organizations have a track record of raising funds via grants and loans, said Tameeka Bennett, executive director of Youth United for Community Action, part of an East Palo Alto-based coalition working to build affordable housing.

According to Elliot Schrage, Facebook vice president of corporate communications and public policy, the organizations managing the fund plan to begin investing in affordable housing projects this fall, and aims to distribute the full fund in five to eight years.

Facebook announced last December that it planned to put $18.5 million into a fund dedicated to affordable housing, with the hope that the initial amount would be a catalyst in generating further funding.

Ms. Bennett said the initial investment is a drop in the bucket compared to what's needed. A commitment to quadrupling that amount is something she believes the fund manager can do.

On Aug. 1, Facebook announced that the selected fund manager is Local Initiatives Support Corporation, which will collaborate with Housing Trust Silicon Valley to oversee and expand the fund and add, preserve and improve affordable housing in Menlo Park and East Palo Alto.

Local Initiatives Support Corp. is a national community development financial institution and Housing Trust Silicon Valley is a local one.

The announcement comes after a laborious and thoughtful process to select the right organizations to manage the fund, Ms. Bennett said.

The two organizations chosen were chosen from about eight prospective organizations following an application period, she said, noting, "It was important for the fund manager to know about the needs of East Palo Alto and have some history with our community."

Local Initiatives Support Corp. provides loans, equity and grants to local organizations such as nonprofit developers, small businesses and service providers to fund projects that help low-income or underserved people. Its Bay Area chapter invests in projects that support economic development, affordable housing, financial stability, health and leadership. Housing Trust Silicon Valley works primarily in Santa Clara County to fund housing affordability programs.

The organizations will be required to report to an advisory committee made up of two members each from Facebook and Envision, Transform, Build - East Palo Alto and a member each from the cities of East Palo Alto and Menlo Park, she said.

Guidelines have been drafted for how fund management organizations should distribute funds, but Ms. Bennett noted, "it's going to be up to them to be smart about how the money is spent so they are able to leverage the fund."

In addition to Facebook's $18.5 million to go toward affordable housing rehabilitation, preservation and construction, the company has given $500,000 to Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto to help Belle Haven and East Palo Alto residents deal with displacement by eviction or abuse by landlords and $250,000 to Rebuilding Together Peninsula, a nonprofit that has rehabilitated homes in disrepair in Belle Haven and East Palo Alto.

Facebook will also dedicate $500,000 toward political activity to support affordable housing policies, Ms. Bennett said.

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