Merritt Scholars Spotlight: Kevin Umaña

June 5, 2024

June 5, 2024–Oakland, CA

Kevin Umaña is a 2023-2024 Merritt Scholar graduating from Cal Poly Pomona with a B.S. in Urban and Regional Planning. Post graduation Kevin will be continuing his internship with the Citywide Housing Policy Unit within the Los Angeles City Planning Department while hoping to join full-time or pursue other opportunities in the field.

  1. Why did you apply to Merritt Scholars?  

I applied to the Merritt Scholars Program because I actively pursue opportunities that aid my goal of creating more sustainable and equitable cities. Since the overall mission of the program aligned with my goal, I believed it would be a great chance to expand my knowledge in the field and challenge myself. 

  1. What drew you to the affordable housing field/why do you want to work in affordable housing? 

My interest in the field stems from personal reasons. Growing up in an underserved neighborhood in Northeast Los Angeles that was historically redlined, my parents acknowledged the lack of amenities available nearby and the need to pursue an education elsewhere. Thankfully my mother’s employer allowed us to use their zip code to gain access to the quality schools in their neighborhood on the west side of Los Angeles. Making the trip from Northeast Los Angeles to Westwood and then West LA for the majority of my life, I noticed the different amenities and opportunities my peers had access to compared to the ones in my neighborhood. Eventually, in my undergraduate career, I learned of the exclusionary policies that have created the myriads of issues that our cities face, and how urban planners can ameliorate them. Overall, I want to work in the affordable housing field, not just as a career path but as an avenue to reach my personal and career goals. 

  1. What interests you about working in affordable housing?  

As optimistic as this sounds, affordable housing interests me because it’s a chance to create more sustainable and equitable cities and help those in need. Additionally, being surrounded by inspiring and smart individuals who share my goals. 

  1. What are your career goals or areas of interest that you would like to explore in your career? 

I’m extremely interested in housing policy and advocacy. I hope to aid housing policy development at the municipal level, through pro-housing ordinances, or advocate affordable housing production and resources at various levels.  

  1. What’s been a favorite part about Merritt Scholars? 

My favorite part of the program was meeting tons of amazing people in the field. Everyone from my cohort to people I’ve met at the conferences has been so supportive. I am forever grateful for the wonderful people I’ve met throughout the program. 

  1. How has the Merritt Scholars program impacted you? 

This program has impacted me in ways that I cannot imagine! There were many practical impacts like obtaining professional and educational opportunities and training, expanding my network, and financial support. Additionally, there were personal impacts like developing meaningful relationships with colleagues and mentors. 

  1. Anything else you would like to add? 

I want to extend my thanks to the whole Merritt staff, my mentor, and my colleagues for being so kind and uplifting me in this challenging but exciting journey. I am forever grateful for this opportunity! I urge any student who is interested in affordable housing to apply to this program! 

Congratulations and thank you for sharing your experience, Kevin! We are excited to have you in the affordable housing industry!

About Merritt Community Capital Corporation 

Merritt Community Capital Corporation is a nonprofit dedicated to our mission to provide equity capital for affordable housing exclusively to California. We do this by partnering with mission-aligned affordable housing developers throughout the state to ensure the most critical communities are developed and maintained for low-income residents. Since 1989, Merritt has created and/or preserved 11,100 affordable homes, through investing over $1.4 billion in 26 separate funds, providing housing for over 29,700 people. 



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