MidPen Housing Corp.’s Matt Franklin, who leads one of the Bay Area’s largest affordable housing developers, believes housing is at the center of everything in life.
A safe, affordable home is the “first necessary condition” to enhance a person’s well-being, an idea that has been reinforced by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Franklin said.
“That’s where we saw a lot of the Covid outbreaks, where there were essential workers in overcrowded housing,” Franklin said. “I’m sure they had the will and desire to practice isolation and distancing, but literally couldn’t do it. The health connection, the health impact for them of the poor quality of their housing — it impacts all of us.”
The MidPen CEO and president feels a “real, personal connection” to his nonprofit organization’s work, whose mission is to provide safe, affordable homes to those in need, create stability in the lives of residents, and foster diverse communities. The nonprofit launched a new 5-year strategic plan in March that came with a lofty goal: Construct 3,000 new homes during that timeframe. Right now, it has nearly 4,000 new homes in its development pipeline.
The following Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.
Title and company: President and CEO, MidPen Housing Corp.
Hometown: Centerville, Ohio
Residence: Mill Valley
Education: Bachelor’s of political science, Colgate University; Master’s in public policy, Harvard University.
Career path: Vice president for Emerging Markets, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, 2001-2003; Director, California Department of Housing and Community Development, 2003-2004; Director, Mayor’s Office of Housing, City and County of San Francisco, 2004-2008; president and CEO of MidPen Housing, 2008-present.
Family: Tay Via Franklin, wife; Winston, son, 13; Milo, son, 11.
Company description: Mission-driven developer and manager of affordable homes and provider of resident services programs, such as education, health and economic empowerment.
Headquarters: Foster City
Employees: More than 500.
Annual revenue: $148.5 million.
What are you working on, and what are your top priorities?
Just to lay the groundwork a little bit, our vision is that affordable housing can provide stability in people’s lives. It creates a platform for stability. And then we make investments through our resident services corporation to help them really seize the opportunity of that. We manage everything we own, which is about 9,000 affordable homes throughout Northern California.
We have a new strategic plan that really anchors us in focusing on serving those who need housing the most. That’s continuing to step up our work in housing the formerly homeless population and focusing on the extremely low-income population.
There’s about 800,000 extremely low-income people in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area. A lot of them are low-wage workers who are living right on the edge of poverty. With Covid and the recession, we believe this population is more vulnerable than ever. There’s also about 35,000 homeless individuals in the Bay Area.
If just 5% of that extremely low-income population were to go into homelessness, that would double the number of homeless people in the Bay Area in one fell swoop. We think it’s important that we really focus on that population we serve, and so we’ve been increasing our scale and impact.
Can you share a little bit about your development pipeline?
As we’re scaling up, trying to focus on producing more affordable homes to try to solve our undersupply problem, we are focusing on larger developments.
“Kiku Crossing” is a 225-unit multifamily development at 480 E. 4th Ave. in downtown San Mateo, less than a quarter-mile from the city’s Caltrain station. That project is fully approved, and we expect it to receive its final piece of financing from the state in the next couple of months. Once that comes through, we’d start construction on the project this fall.
We just started construction on a development we call “Immanuel-Sobrato.” It’s on a church site in the city of San Jose at 1710 Moorpark Ave., and includes 106 units dedicated to the formerly homeless. We just started construction on it. The development benefited from a really generous grant from John Sobrato Sr., to help us buy the land underlying it.
Last month, we bought a wonderful site in Sunnyvale at 1171 Sonora Court. The city helped us buy that land; it’s a wonderful site. It’s about an acre-and-a-half in size, located just off of Highway 237 in what’s historically been a commercial area that’s recently been rezoned to allow for residential development. We think we’re going to be able to fit about 160 units there. We’re still working with the city and the county on the exact plan, but it could be as much as about 30% of units dedicated to the formerly homeless and about 70% for low-wage working folks.
Overall, we’ve got about 600 units under construction and a little under 4,000 homes in our pipeline. About 2,600 of those are approved, so we’ve got a lot coming.
What do you do outside of work?
I have two sons who are going into sixth and eighth grade, and my wife and I spend a lot of time with them. We spend a lot of time outdoors together — it’s one of the things we love most about living here. I also coach their little league baseball teams and am very involved in all their other outdoor activities.
I live in southern Marin County and am a member of my town’s affordable housing advisory committee. I’ve been very active in trying to spur new affordable housing development in Mill Valley, my hometown. It’s an area that is very much behind in affordable housing development, so I’ve become very involved in some of the local work in my free time.