May 18, 2023–OAKLAND, CA
Our next Merritt Scholars Spotlight is Monica Davalos!
Monica is a 2022-2023 Merritt Scholar, working full time as a policy analyst for the California Budget & Policy Center, and is finishing her second year of her three-year Master of Public Policy and Administration program at California State University, Sacramento. Monica is passionate about the future of housing in California.
For Monica, housing is personal. She sees how it impacts Californians, especially those in the lowest income bracket. Growing up, Monica faced housing insecurity and moved around a lot in search of accessible affordable housing with her mom and siblings. Monica spoke of the impact housing instability creates and the basic needs that are put on hold in order to secure housing. “When you’re struggling to keep your home, other things become second priority. Groceries, electricity, clothes, and more are pushed to the side,” said Monica. “But once you do have safe, stable housing it can unlock a person’s full potential.”
Monica views housing as an intersectional issue and fundamental to health, education, job security, intra-personal relationships and more. When she saw the Merritt Scholars Scholarship was a housing-focused scholarship she was excited to apply. Monica firmly believes in the importance of building and creating a unique and diverse workforce and values Merritt’s dedication to building the next generation of affordable housing leaders that more accurately depict the communities being served.
As a policy analyst, Monica sees affordable housing at a higher state level, but she wanted the opportunity to see and learn the day-to-day of affordable housing. She has utilized her experience as a Merritt Scholar to learn more about the minutia of affordable housing. Her research at the California Budget & Policy Center is primarily focused on homelessness and the tailored interventions needed to ensure everyone has access to and the resources needed to stay housed.
“I consider myself a life-long learner,” Monica said. “Being a Merritt Scholar has been so impactful and taught me how massive and intricate the affordable housing industry is.” Monica plans to take what she’s learning in her grad school program, the information she’s gathering in her current job, and find how she can channel it all to create better affordable housing solutions. One big question she wants to focus on – How can it be made more people-centered, accessible, and streamlined? She hopes to find the data and narratives that are needed to make impactful policy on the state level to get more people housed at a faster rate, so all Californians have a home.
Monica noted that one of the biggest benefits of the Merritt Scholars program is the introduction to the depth and breadth of affordable housing. “Since the affordable housing industry is so complex, it feels like I didn’t know how much I didn’t know till I started deeply learning about the different components of affordable housing,” said Monica. She reflected on how impactful meeting different people at all of the industry conferences, events, and dinners has been. It really shows the amount of people it takes to build housing. “Fundamentally it takes a village to build affordable housing. A supportive community is important for the work, and it seems to drive the industry,” Monica said as she notes how intertwined the affordable housing community is.
As Monica looks toward her professional future she wants to continue learning as much as she can about the details of affordable housing, so she knows what needs to change and be fixed to make helpful, impactful policy. She also sees herself working more hands-on with communities who need support. “I enjoy seeing the broader connection between things and bringing attention to the intersectionality of housing and how we can come together to create a better, more holistic safety net and housing community for those who need it.”
Monica has been a wonderfully engaged Merritt Scholar this past year and we are excited to see what she does after she finishes her Master of Public Policy and Administration program. “I value Merritt really taking the time to be intentional on the voices and perspectives they bring in as scholars, who they lift up, and who they bring into special sessions like Meet the Leaders,” said Monica.
As a scholar who is still in school, she will continue to have access to Merritt Scholars resources, such as paid attendance at industry conferences, and we look forward to seeing Monica at events and conferences!
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 11,000 affordable homes, through investing over $1.2 billion in 26 separate funds, providing housing for over 29,700 people.