Where It All Began

It’s been a long journey for EBHO! In keeping with our 40th Anniversary theme, Powerful Legacy, Powerful Future, we want to take a moment to look back at the origins of EBHO and our legacy. 

We’ve come a long way in 40 years, but EBHO has always stayed true to our roots. In 2024 we remain a membership-driven organization, now with a membership of over 450 vibrant and respected community advocates and professionals, combining strong organizing capacity and deep technical expertise. We are proud of our recent policy wins and the successful graduation of over 100 residents and staffers of affordable housing from our Leadership Academy program.

In reflecting on how far we’ve come, we talked to two of our first supporters, EBHO’s first employee Maryann Leshin, and original member and current Senior Director of Policy Jeff Levin.

EBHO’s Early Members

As you may know, the story of EBHO began 40 years ago as a series of informal, monthly brown bag lunches. Affordable housing developers, architects, advocates, City staff, and community activists gathered to discuss how to advance affordable housing in Oakland. They worked together on project-specific and citywide affordable housing and tenants’ rights policies. 

In 1984, OCCUR (Oakland Citizens Committee for Urban Renewal) wrote a grant and dedicated a half-time staff employee to support and form EBHO, then called Oakland Housing Organizations (OHO). Although still volunteer-led, the organization became more formalized with an action agenda and working committees.

From leading a collaborative response to the Loma Prieta earthquake and subsequent housing crisis in 1989 to launching the inaugurated Affordable Housing Week and publishing our first Affordable Housing Guidebook in 1997, EBHO’s early years set the foundation for housing justice organizing and policy advocacy across the East Bay and wider Bay Area. 

Maryann Leshin was one of the founding members of Oakland Housing Organizations, and the organization’s first staff member! First as a staff member and then later as a Board member, she assisted in creating what became EBHO’s Resident Community Organizing Program.

“[EBHO] has always leaned into its role as an advocate for the people who are in need of affordable housing and views organizing as a key strategy. It fights tirelessly for the principle that housing is a human right and doesn’t shy away from hard positions.”

Jeff Levin began attending OHO meetings as both a representative of the City of Oakland’s Housing and Community Development Department and as an individual member. He served on EBHO’s first Board of Directors (1995-96) and maintained a close relationship with the organization throughout his 28 years with the City. Since retiring from the City, Jeff has led EBHO’s policy work since August 2013.

“I’ve stayed involved with EBHO through the years because of the organization’s consistent advocacy for housing justice, the tradition of member participation and involvement in decision-making as well as action, and the broad diversity of EBHO’s active and committed membership.”

Powerful Legacy, Powerful Future

EBHO members featured in our 2015 guidebook. Our annual guidebook has since become EBHO’s Study Room!

For our Anniversary year, we will be hosting a monthly series of Lunch & Learn events, where we will learn from the past 40 years of successful advocacy to help guide us as we mobilize for future action. Events will take place virtually on the last Thursday of each month from 1-2 PM and event topics will be released quarterly.

Our next Lunch & Learns are a crash course on Housing Elements on February 29th and a Member Orientation on March 28th.

Learn more about each event and RSVP below:

Housing Elements 101

Thursday, February 29th at 1 PM

Learn from EBHO’s Policy Team about what a housing element is, why our last year of advocacy around housing elements was so important, and how you can get involved in the future.

Member Orientation

Thursday, March 28th at 1 PM

Are you a new member? A prospective member? Or maybe you’re a long-time member looking to step up your involvement. Join us on March 28th to learn more about the perks of EBHO membership.