June 8, 2023-Oakland, CA
Zennon Ulyate-Crow is a second year Politics major with a minor in Legal-Studies at UC Santa Cruz. Zennon has been drawn toward the housing field for a long time and has experience working in housing advocacy.
Zennon is passionate about the intersectionality of housing and a multi-faceted approach to housing. He views transportation, climate change, education, and more all coming back to housing and the housing crisis. When Zennon learned about Merritt Scholars, he was excited to apply and be involved in the affordable housing space. This scholarship allowed him to be in the room with housing professionals and speak to them about a shared passion. These opportunities created a more formal introduction to the housing field.
For Zennon, the financial support of the scholarship was impactful and important, but the industry mentorship component was one of the biggest draws. Zennon’s mentor is Regina Celestin-Williams, Executive Director of SV@Home and Merritt’s Board Member, and she has been a great mentor and resource for him. Regina has provided a lot of guidance and advice for Zennon on the work he is doing, such as Zennon’s co-authoring Bill AB 1630: Student Housing Crisis Act 2023.
Zennon’s passion for affordable housing comes not only from witnessing the need but understanding that housing is at the intersection of many issues and at the root of problems the state of California experiences. Zennon and his family were forced to consider moving from their mountain community due to climate-induced wildfires, but when faced with finding housing in Los Angeles they were unable to find anything that was affordable and met their needs. He was able to see firsthand how housing affects every part of someone’s life and the need to change the structures that are in place. That is exactly what Zennon plans to do by tackling the housing crisis from a government/policy perspective.
Zennon has enjoyed the ability to attend different events and conferences with Merritt Scholars and speak with a plethora of affordable housing professionals. He knows that these are the connections that years down the road he’ll still be talking with as he continues his housing work. He’s excited to meet people he will be in collaboration with to end the housing crisis.
Class and schoolwork have created a strong foundation of knowledge and Zennon believes that through the program he has had a hands-on, real life, experiential learning experience that gives him a holistic perspective. “Merritt Scholars gives you a much better perspective on the kind of work you’ll do outside of academia and a glimpse into what it looks like when you apply your education outside of the classroom,” said Zennon.
While attending the annual Housing California conference, Zennon met a contact doing impactful legislative work and was able to secure an internship for the summer at Inner City Law Center. This internship will give Zennon the opportunity to expand the work he has already started. With this experience and meeting other housing professionals, Zennon has come to appreciate how friendly and open people in the affordable housing field are. Everyone wants to uplift others that are passionate about housing work and have a shared mission. Zennon is excited to see the real-world passion and encouragement and believes that “together, we can fix the affordable housing crisis.”
We’re thrilled to have Zennon as a Merritt Scholar and have him continue to attend events as he finishes school at UC Santa Cruz.
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.