A startup aims to stop gentrification, with help from the tech industry

At Ars Technica Live, Catherine Bracy talked about her nonprofit startup TechEquity and how the tech industry can mitigate the housing crisis.

If the headline on this article made your eyes burn with fire and your fingers twitch to comment without reading further, then you’re in the majority. The relationship between Silicon Valley’s tech industry and economic inequality in the Bay Area is an incendiary issue, as civic tech leader Catherine Bracy is all too aware. She came to Ars Technica Live to talk about her vision for a future where people in Oakland celebrate when a new tech company comes to town. With her startup TechEquity Collaborative, she’s showing techies what they can do to help their neighbors benefit from the tech economy as much as they have.

Bracy’s first message to the packed crowd was that we shouldn’t blame techies for the housing crisis. She said she’d had to overcome her own prejudices to make that realization. When Uber announced they were buying the historic Sears Building in Oakland, where Bracy lives, she said she had to struggle not to get angry. She worried that her neighborhood would be less brown and that there would be a wave of housing displacement like what San Francisco has already experienced. But after years of working on civic-minded tech projects like Code for America and founding nonprofit TechEquity several years ago, she’s come to a new understanding.

First, Bracy said, she realized that we couldn’t solve problems with housing and income inequality by writing apps or coding. There was no tech solution for this problem. That’s why she pivoted TechEquity’s mission to focus on changing local and state laws. Right now, TechEquity is focused on laws that would mitigate the effects of gentrification, as well as projects that provide funds for people who have been evicted. The problem goes beyond the Bay Area to the state level, she said. Eviction and affordable housing…

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