July 13 2018

In 2007, Burger King ran this ad in Oakland public transit stations. Even then, the fast food industry understood—and capitalized on—the hard choices people have to make because of the lack of affordable housing and how this impacts their health.

[Image Description: picture of Burger King ad that features images of breakfast items such as cinnamon rolls and egg and ham breakfast sandwiches, framed by silhouettes of San Francisco landmarks and tourist attractions such as the Golden Gate Bridge and trollies, with the caption, “NOW YOU CAN PAY RENT AND EAT. BK BREAKFAST VALUE MENU. 10 ITEMS STARTING AT $1 EACH.”]


The impacts of housing on health, ranging from foreclosure to gentrification—especially on working class people and people of color—has been extensively documented over the last decade. We have the evidence. We understand the problem. The question is, will public health institutions—public and private—act boldly to advance powerful solutions that ensure all communities have access to quality, affordable housing?

When the Sacramento Bee asked Daniel Zingale, Senior Vice President for Healthy California at The California Endowment, what can be done to make housing less expensive, Zingale replied: “Most fundamentally, [we must] recognize housing should be more than just a commodity. It is a basic human right.”

When we understand that having a safe, affordable home is a human right and a cornerstone for healthy communities and a healthy nation, our collective efforts to address the crisis move beyond a narrow focus on production to include a wider range of solutions.  This shift centers the needs of those most impacted by the crisis—those insecurely housed and homeless—and requires they play a lead role in solving it.  We all have an interest in building the voice and agency of those most impacted by the crisis so that communities themselves amass enough power—the ability of people with shared interests to come together to achieve a desired change—to change the policies and institutional practices responsible for the housing crisis in the first place.

That is why I am so excited to share, “Power, Place, and Public Health: A Review of the Literature on the Health Impacts of Displacement & Promise of Inclusive Community Development.”  The California Endowment commissioned this research led by Martha Matsuoka at the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College to inform our thinking on the connection between place, housing, and public health.[1] This paper not only compiles the mounting evidence connecting the housing crisis and health, it provides a framework for action grounded in the wisdom of grassroots organizations winning housing justice in cities and counties across the country.

The bottom line: Health and philanthropic institutions have a role to play in building the people power necessary to fight for housing as a human right.  

As a public health philanthropic institution, The California Endowment is proud to partner in the Fund for an Inclusive California or F4ICA.  Held at and managed by Common Counsel Foundation, this $7million (and growing) fund supports organizations growing grassroots power to drive housing and community development policies and systems changes at the local, regional, and statewide level.  We are inviting others to join us in strategically funding these efforts (see below for more information).

Public and private public health institutions have critical a role to play beyond grantmaking.   From lending their influence to sharing research capacity, there are many ways public health can bolster the credibility and visibility of community-driven efforts.

As tent cities swell across California, it is easy to feel discouraged.  However, one need only look to the deep and impactful organizing rising all over the state and nation to see that a sea change is underway.  We at The California Endowment are excited to join with our peers in the public health sector and in philanthropy to support the housing justice movement.

Fund for an Inclusive California is a collaborative funding initiative designed to advance racial and economic equity and community health in California, with a focus on supporting community-driven solutions to the crisis of neighborhood displacement and gentrification. Through a combination of pooled and aligned funding, this initiative will focus on regions that are experiencing rapid growth in development, accelerating community displacement, and where there is significant potential for local, regional, and statewide impact. For more information about how to join, please contact the fund’s manager, Jazmin Segura at jazmin@commoncounsel.org

[1] Power, Place, and Public Health builds on other TCE supported work such as, “Development without Displacement: Resisting Gentrification in the Bay Area” and “Healthy Development Without Displacement: Realizing the Vision of Healthy Communities for All” by the Prevention Institute  that makes the case for the role of public health research and advocacy on issues of gentrification and displacement.

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