Oct 25Building Homes and Building Leaders: Meet Mercy Housing California’s Real Estate Development Interns
Each year, Mercy Housing California (MHC) is proud to partner with tomorrow’s affordable housing leaders as they advance in their chosen careers by interning with our real estate development teams. We recently welcomed three incredibly talented interns to our Sacramento, San Francisco, and Los Angeles offices, and sat down to chat with them about their experiences tackling community engagement, financing, historic preservation, and many more aspects of the affordable housing world.
Program: California Coalition for Rural Housing Internship Program for Diversity in Nonprofit Housing and Community Development
Citlali, a Community and Regional Development major, will graduate in spring 2022 and is completing a year-long internship with MHC concurrently with her senior year at UC Davis. The California Coalition for Rural Housing has been placing interns at affordable housing nonprofits for more than 20 years, with the goal of recruiting Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) college students who are passionate about affordable housing and finding them entryways into the industry.
“The internship fits with my major, but the personal reason that got me into it was, I can attribute affordable housing to why I’m able to be here,” said Citlali. “I’m a second-generation Mexican-American student, with grandparents who were farmworkers who lived in a housing project in Oxnard, California. My mom grew up there and went to school and grad school. She was able to have stability in her life and provide that for me.”
At UC Davis, Citlali has applied her interest in affordable housing to tenant advocacy and mentorship work focused on student renters in the city of Davis. As an intern at MHC, she has been focused on the rehabilitation of Sacramento’s Capitol Park Hotel, a historic building currently being converted into permanent supportive housing to help people exit homelessness. “I’ve definitely seen how much work goes into each project before construction,” said Citlali, who noted that developers are tasked with preserving the building’s elegant façade while updating it with modern amenities. “I’ve also been engaging local partners to see how we can connect the building to other resources in downtown Sacramento.”
Looking forward, Citlali is confident about building a career in the development or urban planning space. “I’m already feeling like this is what I want to do,” she reflected. “Affordable housing is definitely where I’ll stay.”
Office: Los Angeles
Program: Los Angeles Local Initiatives Support Coalition Housing Initiative Program
Isaiah is no stranger to the core values of Mercy Housing California – before this opportunity, he worked briefly for a homebuilder in land acquisitions, and led community organizing efforts focused on land use, housing, and gentrification. This all made him a natural fit for the Local Initiatives Support Coalition (LISC)’s Housing Initiative Program, which places diverse candidates with affordable housing developers and provides training and networking opportunities.
“I’ve always wanted to do something that has to do with the built environment,” said Isaiah, reflecting on what drew him to MHC. “I’m passionate about where new buildings go, what kind of buildings they are, who they are for, and how they improve their surrounding environments. I’m interested in learning more about the regulatory burdens that keep us from producing enough affordable housing to house all the people who need it – which in our city, Los Angeles, is most of the people.”
Isaiah’s work at MHC was focused on project management at a few Southern California residences, including Villa de Vida Poway, which leased up this summer. He also advanced the real estate team’s equity goals by launching an audit of MHC’s vendors and partners to assess what percentage are women-owned and disability-owned businesses. The results of this audit will give MHC clear next steps to ensure that the vendors utilized by the real estate team are just as diverse as California.
Though his internship wrapped up this fall, Isaiah’s career in housing is just getting started. “I’m an urbanist at heart,” he said. “I definitely want to work at the nexus of housing, urban planning, and policy, and affordable housing development is one great way to be in that space.”
Office: San Francisco
Program: Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California’s Bay Area Affordable Housing Internship Program
After growing up in the South Bay Area, Priscila is now actively engaged in making San Francisco a better place to live for residents of its Sunnydale neighborhood. She joins MHC via the Bay Area Affordable Housing Internship Program, an internship program focused on advancing leaders of color in the housing sector.
“Everyone deserves to have agency over their own lives, and a lot of that starts with having a home,” said Priscila, whose work this year has centered on one of MHC’s most ambitious projects yet, Sunnydale HOPE SF.
Through a public-private partnership, MHC is replacing the 775 obsolete, worn-down apartments at Sunnydale with a new mixed-income neighborhood of 1,600 beautiful homes for current Sunnydale residents and other San Franciscans. Priscila has played a key role in community engagement, initiating conversations about the community’s history and future. “I’ve been getting input from Sunnydale residents on the new names of their streets, their buildings, and their gardens, and it’s been really awesome to hear all of their stories,” she said. “We want to do everything in a way that doesn’t feel like we’re moving quickly without the consensus of the community.”
Working with contractors, architects and other vendors has given Priscila a new appreciation for the challenging but crucial process of balancing community priorities with building standards and other logistical constraints. She reflected, “It’s been eye-opening to see all the work that goes into involving the community in everything we have going on at Sunnydale. We want to know what they think, and we want their opinions. It’s their home – and their future home.”
Priscila will be with MHC through June of 2022, and until then, is open to learning as much as she can about all aspects of affordable housing development. “I’m very grateful for this internship,” she said, adding, “It’s taught me a lot about housing, but also about myself and what interests me.”
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