Eden Updates, Policy Updates

Q&A with David Garcia, Up for Growth Policy Director and Eden Housing Board Member

June 20, 2024

A field as challenging—and critical—as affordable housing needs the best possible talent to ensure that important goals are met. That’s why Up for Growth recently appointed David Garcia as its first Policy Director, where he is responsible for building, stewarding and advocating for its portfolio of pro-housing policies.

This follows a six-year stint for Garcia at the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was also its first Policy Director. During his tenure, Garcia led the center’s engagement in local, state and federal housing policy and supported the generation of research-driven policy ideas, proposals and papers. His work and insights have been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and NPR. Previously, he worked in real estate development in Stockton, California, and before that served as an analyst for the U.S. Government Accountability Office in Washington DC.

Garcia joined Eden’s Board of Directors in 2022 and has been a tremendous addition to the organization, thanks to his passion for the industry and tremendous industry and policy insight. We had the pleasure of sitting down with Garcia to learn more about his background in the housing industry, his goals for Up for Growth and his positive outlook for coming change in the industry.

How did you initially become interested in the housing industry?

I come to the housing space from a couple of different angles. First, I have some lived experience with challenges of housing affordability. When I was a teenager growing up in Stockton, our house was foreclosed on, which was a traumatic experience. Thankfully, we had family who could help us, but we saw that many others were losing their homes as well. It became a personal issue as I grasped the importance of a home as a safe place. From there I eventually went to graduate school to study policy and found my way to working in real estate development on a small scale back in Stockton, where I partnered with nonprofit housing developers to build low-income housing tax credit projects.

As my first experience in trying to get housing built in the state of California, it was really eye-opening and gave me a tremendous appreciation for any construction site I go by, as I know the years of planning, meetings—and pushback—that were involved in getting to that point.

From there, I started working at the Terner Center as Policy Director. I led their land use research policy initiatives, which gave me useful insights into the actual core issues of the housing supply and affordability challenge and a lot of opportunity to do quality research and work with policy makers on finding impactful solutions.


What led you to join Up for Growth and what do you hope to accomplish there?

After six-and-a-half years at Terner Center, I was looking for a new challenge. Up for Growth is well positioned to be really impactful at the federal level with regard to housing policy, as a national organization actively working with members of Congress to address housing issues writ large. It was a really attractive opportunity to take the next step in my career, build my own team and work on issues at a federal level, which was new to me. I also have the opportunity to get more involved in helping drive and shape housing legislation as it’s introduced and progresses.

In terms of goals, I’m committed to ensuring more members of Congress understand the housing supply and affordability challenge, including its root causes and effective solutions, along with the important role the federal government plays in housing, even though it’s ultimately a local issue. From there, the goal is really to get Congress to move forward with pro-housing legislation and policy, which is really any policy that can help cities and states implement pro-housing efforts on their own. I hope that we can rethink the structure of federal programs so they are more modern as we urge the federal government to play a positive role in addressing the housing supply issues.

You are also a member of Eden Housing’s board. What attracted you to the organization, and how might this experience enhance your work at Up for Growth?

I have admired Eden Housing for a long time. They do incredible work—building beautiful, safe properties and managing them from a people-first perspective, which is critical in this kind of work. So for me it was an easy decision to contribute to an organization that does such incredible work and attracts such great talent.

From a professional development perspective, it’s really helpful for me to seek insights from people who are actively building housing on a day-to-day basis. When I do my policy work, I can bring with me the knowledge of what the Eden Housing folks are experiencing on the ground as they try to achieve their mission of creating more homes for people.

What are some of the key findings from Up for Growth’s 2023 Housing Underproduction report, and what do think are challenges and opportunities facing states like California, which are chronically underproducing?

The high-level takeaway is that the United States has under-produced housing to the tune of 3.89 million homes, an increase over the previous years. We are clearly not moving in the right direction just yet. Another takeaway is that this is not an issue only affecting California or coastal cities and states, as we found under-production across the country in essentially all metropolitan areas. So while I think some folks may assume the issue is isolated to certain parts of the country, it’s prevalent everywhere. That’s even more of a reason for the federal government to assume a more proactive role in addressing housing supply everywhere, not just the high-cost coastal areas.

The trends show that it continues to be expensive and lengthy to go through the development process, particularly for affordable housing. While these issues affect the industry at large, the challenge is particularly pronounced in California. When I was at Terner Center, we did a lot of work examining how California is such an outlier in the time and money it takes to build affordable housing. In general, I don’t believe the housing market is currently working the way it’s supposed to. Given the high costs and interest rates, very little housing is being approved and constructed now, increasing the risk of falling further behind in addressing our housing deficit.

On the positive side, legislators have finally taken notice of how critical the situation has gotten. I have been encouraged by the number of lawmakers I’ve interacted with, both at the state and federal level, who recognize we need to do more to address housing supply and affordability. There is good momentum to get policy introduced to catalyze greater housing development that will support the growth of affordable housing throughout the country. For example, in the past couple of weeks, Arizona and Colorado have passed pro-housing legislation.

California has historically been a leader in passing legislation, so it’s encouraging that other states are taking notice and using its results as a playbook for addressing the issues in their own communities. The pro-housing movement is gaining significant momentum, which is long overdue, but welcome progress.

How can individuals and organization support Up for Growth’s work?

We are a membership organization, with members who cut across various industries and sectors. For example, our diverse coalition includes nonprofit developers, for-profit developers and national industry trade groups. Whether they are members or not, people can track our work through our website and social media channels.

On a larger scale, I encourage people to track what’s happening at the federal level and make sure your Congressional representatives know about the legislation we’re working on with our partners. We have several impressive pieces in the works, such as the Reducing Regulatory Barriers to Housing Act. And in the coming months, likely in the next Congress, you’re going to see a lot of good housing policy introduced. Following Up for Growth is one of the ways to help identify where those opportunities are.