Fishman brings to her new post more than 20 years of experience in affordable housing and community development.
What was your very first job, and what did it teach you?
In high school, I was a camp counselor. It taught me the importance and art of leadership development, group facilitation, public speaking, and team building.
What was your first job in affordable housing?
In 1994, at age 23, I was hired by Mission Housing Development Corp. (MHDC) to be a tenant coordinator at an 84-unit supportive housing development in San Francisco, working with formerly homeless adults with substance abuse, mental illness, and/or physical health needs. After a year, I became the site director for two and a half years, overseeing all aspects of support services and property management and then went on to become MHDC’s director of supportive housing for over six years.
What led you to the field?
As an environmental studies major at Brown University, I became interested in the urban environment and combatting environmental racism. I did a community organizing internship with Direct Action for Rights and Equality in South Providence [R.I.], an organization working to change the power dynamics in the city for low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. I saw that housing was a fundamental component of the urban environment and a foundation for community building. I then did my undergraduate thesis on Community Development Corporations (CDCs) and the relationship between community organizing and community development in building an affordable housing movement.
Since joining NPH, what issue have you been spending most of your time on?
Since January, in addition to advancing our statewide policy and funding initiatives, I have been focusing on developing a Bay Area regional funding campaign for affordable housing. The latter involves growing our strategic communications capacity, exploring possible policy and ballot initiatives, and building the long-term political power and infrastructure of our membership and constituent base. I am strategizing with members, partners, and allies about how to grow our collaborations and impact at the state, regional and local level.
While I cannot fill the shoes of my predecessor, Dianne Spaulding, I can and am picking up the baton of her leadership and building upon the strength of NPH’s 36 years of achievements.
As the new executive director, what are your goals this year?
The spiking real estate and tech bubble combined with historic levels of inequality in the Bay Area, across California and the country, has called for new strategies and alliances. We need to build back the funding sources for affordable housing development and work to create more fairness in our economy.
We at NPH feel an urgency to shake things up, build our movement, demonstrate the value of affordable housing investment, and push back against the tide of gentrification and displacement. NPH has the opportunity to step into the raging debates and daily news coverage to provide visionary and practical solutions that meet our communities’ critical needs for affordable housing. We can be at the forefront on protecting and preserving the Bay Area’s diversity and inclusiveness that we love.
These cross-sector approaches are leading to new ways of financing and preserving affordable housing.
Share with us a statistic to consider.
California has half a million homeless kids and nine out of 10 of the most expensive cities in the country. This mismatch is unacceptable. We have the resources, expertise, and solutions to change this reality.
If you could have access to any expert for advice, who would it be and why?
Martin Luther King Jr. has been the most influential political and social justice figure in my life since I was in high school. I’d ask his advice about growing the affordable housing movement as a bread-and-butter issue across the country.