Connecting the Dots ~ Fred Allebach

Fred Allebach Fred Allebach is a member of the City of Sonoma’s Community Services and Environmental Commission, and an Advisory Committee member of the Sonoma Valley Groundwater Sustainability Agency. Fred is a member of Sonoma Overlook Trail Stewards, as well as Sonoma Valley Housing Group and Transition Sonoma Valley.


A philanthropic approach to affordable housing

Posted on February 7, 2020 by Fred Allebach

I’ve got a great idea. Twenty top-tier wealthy locals each donate $1 million to the city’s affordable housing fund – this would allow the city to buy lots large enough for 100% deed-restricted Affordable Housing projects – and give these lots to non-profit developers. The city could also help leverage other funds and resources.

Money is what it will take to get the housing we need in Sonoma. This is what the Sonoma Valley Fund’s Hidden in Plain Sight study called out years ago, that local philanthropy is not getting the job done on the most critical need, Affordable Housing.

The Springs has done and is doing its fair share, with Fetter’s Apartments, senior housing, and hopefully the Verano Family Apartments, too. Sonoma has the Altamira Family Apartments underway, but remains behind in supplying deed-restricted workforce housing.

I see friends and clients of mine whose pictures and names are on hospital wings and rooms, etc. I know they give. I’m pretty sure they’ve got an extra $1 million each. Why not? Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and many other wealthy people have made the Giving Pledge. Why aren’t our local wealthy doing the same?

What’s up at the Sonoma Valley Fund regarding housing? Why can’t we connect known resources with the greatest need? Affordable Housing is one of the most serious issues we have. It’s also common knowledge that housing is an aggregating sustainability indicator: if someone has a secure roof at a supportable price, better education and health follow. Investing in Affordable Housing is a smart choice to make a big difference for the good.

The wealthiest people in the world have $4 trillion plus in total. And they are getting wealthier even as they endeavor to give it all away. Worthy and competent recipients, like the city, or a land trust, ought to qualify for a gift.

There might be some hesitation to give to the city, and concerns that the money would be squandered or used inappropriately. I doubt the city would blow an opportunity like this, but a conservative blockade on the city council could stifle government efforts to address social issues. There are unknowns. But a dedicated fund with restrictions could be set up.   

Alternatively, the Group of 20 could simply buy 285 Napa Road and give it to Burbank Housing; that would work. The Group of Twenty could buy and give away large lots at whatever city and city-edge locations are suitable for non-profit builders to then secure tax credit financing. For projects like that to be financially viable, there need to be at least 50 units, and two acres.

Twenty million could buy ten to 15 acres anywhere in town, more at the edge. This, plus giving the land to reputable non-profit builders like SAHA, MidPen, or Burbank, would set Sonoma on a track to address all of its housing equity needs, for seniors, hospitality economy service workers, home services workers, and people’s grown kids who can’t make ends meet at $15 an hour. This generosity would be a game changer.

If I had $3 million, I could easily give $1 million and still have plenty left. So, here’s my Giving Pledge challenge to Impact 100, and my local wealthy friends and clients, what is holding you back? Let’s get the Hidden in Plain Sight job done here. The city Affordable Housing fund awaits your call.   




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