May 15, 2017

How State & Local Policy Work Creates Change in Southern California

sally-hebner.jpgQ&A with KeAndra Dodds, Senior Program Director, Policy and Special Initiatives

At Enterprise, we work in state houses and in city halls across the country to increase local resources for affordable housing, use existing resources more effectively and ensure that rental housing stock is sustainable for the long-term. We're thankful for a Wells Fargo Housing Foundation grant that helps make this work possible.

We asked KeAndra Dodds, Senior Program Director, Policy and Special Initiatives in our Southern California market, to share more about her role and the team's efforts.

Tell us about your role in Southern California.
My role in the region is to strategize with a broad range of partners to find policy solutions. I bring together and collaborate with affordable housing developers, business leaders, transportation partners, environmental groups and advocates and partners from other sectors to address affordable housing and community development challenges in the region. I also facilitate conversations between public, private and nonprofit partners across different sectors to develop and implement strategies to meet our shared goals and priorities.

What was your role in getting the recent Measures H and Proposition HHH passed? These measures will provide $3.5 billion in sales tax revenue and a $1.2 billion bond, respectively, to tackle homelessness in Los Angeles.
Enterprise’s involvement increased over time, as we developed our homelessness and policy programs. We initially participated in the planning processes that led to the development of the Los Angeles City and County homeless plans, from which these measures grew. From there, we endorsed both measures through voter outreach, spoke at press conferences and town halls and supported the advocacy efforts of our partners.

With so many possibilities to affect change through policy, how do you go about forming an agenda and determining specific policy recommendations?
With our mission and programmatic priorities in mind, we look for gaps and areas where we can be most effective and have the greatest impact. We learn from check-ins with our public and private partners, surveys, interviews, informal conversations, research reviews and workshops, roundtables and other events we host and attend. We consider what tool, program, research or resource could help address a problem or meet a need that is not being met or could be met in a more effective manner. We also consider what policies have the potential to be replicated if successful.

What role does educating constituents play in your work?
Educating constituents plays a major role in our work, particularly when it comes to passing ballot measures, encouraging elected officials to take action and soliciting feedback on proposed solutions. When organizing to get city councils or the county supervisors to take action, education helps empower constituents to directly engage with elected officials and advocate for our policy priorities. Educating constituents also helps to develop solutions to housing and community development challenges. With education, people experiencing the challenges we want to address can comment on the practicality, effectiveness and feasibility of proposed solutions, in a way that top-down, purely data-driven approaches cannot.

What’s the toughest challenge in the work you do?
Los Angeles County is the largest county in the country, with over 10 million residents and 88 diverse cities, plus unincorporated Los Angeles County territory, and it’s the largest municipal government in the nation. With such a large and diverse county, it is tough to find one-size-fits-all solutions. Yet, regional solutions are needed to truly address the housing crisis. Similarly, there are many housing and community development advocates working on these issues but rarely with a united voice. The toughest, but perhaps most important challenge is building a common agenda to address regional needs, while still supporting local solutions. 

What’s your favorite part of the work you do?
I love empowering constituents, particularly those who have overcome much in their lives and never thought they would be in a position to advocate for better policies for themselves, let alone other people. The feeling I get when they see that their advocacy made a difference truly inspires me.

Thanks to Wells Fargo Housing Foundation for supporting Enterprise’s efforts to strengthen communities like through state and local policy.

Learn more about our state and local policy efforts across the country and our work in Southern California, and find out how to support our work.