cindy wu deputy director operations san francisco chinatown community development center cdc ccdc
Cindy Wu, Deputy Director of Operations for Chinatown Community Development Center. Photo by George E. Baker Jr.

Building Stability: One Home at a Time

A Q&A with Cindy Wu, Deputy Director of Operations for Chinatown Community Development Center

Q: What is Chinatown Community Development Center’s (Chinatown CDC) mission?

Cindy Wu: Chinatown CDC does many things! We build affordable housing and manage it long-term to ensure it stays affordable. We do community organizing and community planning, mostly focused on Chinatown issues, but also city-wide tenants’ rights and affordable housing issues.

Q: How does Chinatown CDC create affordable housing options in the community?
CW: We started the housing arm of our organization over 40 years ago by buying some buildings in Chinatown that were old and had tenants in them. These buildings were at-risk of being demolished or evicting their tenants. We’ve actually come back full circle to that strategy in this really hot housing market. We work with the city to buy existing buildings with tenants in them and preserve them as affordable housing. This prevents the pattern of speculators buying a building, evicting tenants, and doing a light rehab in order to then double, triple or quadruple the price of units.

Q: Why does Chinatown CDC offer other services to residents?
CW: Housing is the foundation for stability in someone’s life, but housing alone is not enough for maintaining a community. We provide resident services in all of our buildings to make sure that we are bringing people in the building together, teaching them leadership skills to help them take on issues in the neighborhood, like advocating for a park or bus or pedestrian safety. Community isn’t a brick-and-mortar thing — it’s about organizing, it’s about being a champion for issues that matter to people, it’s about residents having control over their own destiny and neighborhood.

Q: Why does Chinatown CDC need help from the San Francisco community?
CW: We need the political will to fund affordable housing — really fund it, not just talk about funding it. We need the willingness to look at what truly stabilizes communities and understand what lets people continue to live in those communities. It takes really trying to understand the life of someone, say two seniors living on SSI, or a family with both parents working two jobs to make it in Chinatown to understand why Chinatown CDC is a worthwhile organization to donate to with time or money. That empathy is important for all of San Francisco to be able to help support us with solutions.

Article by Annie Stokes. Published in What Does It Take to Save a Neighborhood?


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