The Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) brings together working class Asian immigrant and refugee communities in the Bay Area to develop and fight for progressive solutions to address affordable housing, environmental justice, and economic justice.
APEN has worked for nearly 30 years to build the leadership of Asian immigrants and refugees, beginning with helping communities address environmental hazards in their neighborhoods in Richmond and expanding their work to fight for affordable housing preservation in a rapidly gentrifying Oakland Chinatown. Their work also includes collaborating with others across the state and nation to help build a shared vision around environmental, social, and economic justice through power building strategies like civic engagement and policy advocacy. Locally, as rent skyrockets and low-income families continue to struggle to find quality affordable housing in the Bay Area, APEN continues to work with community members to propose policy solutions that address the need to preserve affordable housing and create safer living conditions in working-class communities like Oakland, Chinatown, and Richmond. For example, in 2019, APEN won a 16-year campaign to ensure a new Oakland luxury waterfront development included 465 units of on-site affordable rental housing for seniors and families making between 30 and 60 percent of the area median income. That same year APEN also helped push forward AB 1482, housing legislation that would cap rent increases and protect people from eviction. APEN's community leaders also advocated for the Healthy Homes Act (AB 1232), which included provisions for a program to utilize existing energy efficiency funds to help renovate the homes of working class families and do research into whether these kinds of statewide environmental programs cause displacement. In 2019, AB 1232 was signed into law in California.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, APEN’s advocacy and organizing work became even more critical. In 2020, APEN established a mutual aid fund, COVID-19 Emergency Community Stabilization Fund, in order to support Bay Area working-class Asian immigrants and refugees that were struggling due to the pandemic. They were able to raise and disburse a total of $60,000 to immigrant and refugee community members. Additionally, APEN advocated for a citywide emergency moratorium on tenant evictions in Oakland in order to help protect tenants during the pandemic, as well as emergency paid sick leave for those infected with COVID.
Photo credit: Asian Pacific Environmental Network