Q&A With Incoming State Housing Secretary Tomiquia Moss

Tomiquia Moss headshot

This week, former SPUR board chair Tomiquia Moss began her new job as secretary of California’s Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency (BCSH). Previously, Tomiquia was the founder and CEO of All Home, which works across counties, sectors, and silos to challenge the long-standing systems that perpetuate homelessness and poverty. Tomiquia also served as the CEO of Hamilton Families, which offers emergency, transitional, and permanent housing services for families experiencing homelessness. From 2014 to 2017, she served directly under the mayors of both San Francisco and Oakland, most recently as chief of staff for Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. Previously, she was the executive director of the HOPE SF Initiative, a public housing and neighborhood revitalization effort with the office of late San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee. Tomiquia was also SPUR’s community planning policy director from 2011 to 2013 and served as the president of the SPUR Board of Directors from 2018 to 2021.

We are thrilled to support Tomiquia in her new role. We recently spoke with her about what she’s looking forward to working on as BCSH secretary.


We are so excited for you to be secretary of the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency. Can you tell us why you decided to take on this new role?

BCSH touches the lives of virtually every Californian, whether they know it or not. The agency has broad responsibility for the issues I’ve been working on throughout my career, including housing, homelessness, and civil rights. I’ve also seen over the years, and especially since founding All Home, the important role the state plays in bringing us together around solutions and provide resources to solve the tough problems we face. So, when the Governor’s Office approached me about this opportunity, I couldn’t turn it down. This is a chance to lead change that can have a meaningful impact on Californians and our state, and I’m excited to see what’s possible.


What are the top three things you are looking to focus on as BCSH Secretary?

Well, before I dive in, I’ll just say that although I’ve been focused on homelessness and housing, I am excited to learn more and do what I can to strengthen all the departments that BCSH oversees. Each of them is important, and I’m humbled by the scope of responsibility I’m taking on.

And of course, I’ll continue to focus on addressing homelessness and caring for our neighbors who need a roof over their heads. As BCSH secretary, I’ll seek to clarify the outcomes local jurisdictions are expected to deliver and provide the support — not just the financial resources — that it will take to achieve those outcomes. Right now, the state is bringing a lot of funding to the table, and local governments have the expertise and the infrastructure to make a difference on the ground. But we can strengthen our collaborative strategy. We need a shared vision and a sense of mutual accountability and urgency to deliver the outcomes — not just the outputs or activity — that the public expects. For example, we need accountability metrics that will not just reduce homelessness but narrow the racial disparities in who experiences homelessness, since we know that Black Californians are vastly overrepresented.

I’ll also be looking for efficiencies within the areas of work that BCSH oversees. Especially in the context of a budget deficit, it’s important to do as much as we can to ensure the programs and resources we already have work as smoothly as possible. The deficit won’t last forever, and when more resources are available again, we want our programs and departments to be ready to make their maximum impact. I’m fearless and pragmatic, and I’m not shy about pointing out a hard truth. I expect those qualities will serve the state well in this regard.

Finally, there’s important work to do, as a leader of multiple departments and of other leaders within them, to shift us from a mindset of scarcity to one of abundance. Even with a budget deficit, the resources and talent within the State of California are formidable, and there is so much that we can do and will continue to do. We can’t let a tough budget stymie our momentum or allow us to lose sight of what it will take to reimagine our systems so they can actually fix the problems we face.


One major throughline of your work has been a focus on addressing homelessness. How will you be able to further this work in your new position?

BCSH oversees the state departments that deal directly with housing and homelessness, including Housing and Community Development, the California Housing Finance Agency, the Department of Real Estate, and the California Interagency Council on Homelessness. These entities, in turn, administer billions of dollars in funding and set the rules and regulations for programs that govern much of our housing and homelessness response systems.

There’s a lot of good being done that we should continue — bright spots and success stories from local partners that we should lift up for others to emulate. As BCSH secretary, I plan to work closely with our experts and leaders at the agency and departments to see where can we find efficiencies, where can we streamline. How do we challenge ourselves further to overcome the challenges our state faces? I'll seek to empower and embolden leaders throughout our departments and across the administration to continue to push for outcomes that benefit the Californians who are counting on us. I know we have the commitment and passion to make a difference people will see and feel, and find solutions for complex, statewide problems like homelessness.


The state is in a significant budget deficit. What are things that can help move the housing conversation forward that don’t involve new funding?

While it’s not the budget situation I would have hoped for, there’s still a lot we can do. As I mentioned earlier, I think we can find opportunities to streamline, align programs and policies more efficiently, and explore cross-departmental collaboration and coordination to stretch the dollars we do have. We need to do that work so that when resources are available again, we’re not getting ready — we can put them to work effectively.

I also plan to elevate the need for concurrent investments in interim housing, permanent housing, and homelessness prevention. That’s a strategy shift that the state and our local partners can start to make even if we don’t have all the resources we want.


How do you see your role intersecting with the other agencies in order to move forward land-use planning in the state? I am thinking here specifically of the intersection between housing and transportation, as well as between housing and economic development?

Our systems and requirements for land use planning in California have gotten incredibly complex and diffuse. Planning for housing, transportation, and economic development requires navigating many programs from different agencies and departments, with different rules, principles, requirements, and funding applications.

We need a coherent system that is easy for our local partners to navigate, while at the same time helping them address multiple challenges at the intersections between housing and transportation, as well as economic development. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can achieve on that front once I’m in my new role.

Obviously a lot of this would require legislation, but that’s doable. And I’m excited to see what we can do administratively once we roll up our sleeves.

I’m also excited to work with other agencies and cabinet members as we implement once-in-a-lifetime initiatives like CalAIM [a plan to integrate Medi-Cal with other social services]. My experience as a social worker providing direct client services should help as I collaborate with other agencies on critical issues related to housing and health.


Will you come back and visit your friends at SPUR?

Of course! SPUR will always feel like home to me, and I’m so grateful for the vision and leadership the organization and its members provide.