The City of Berkeley is seeking to become the first in the United States to use an innovative blockchain-based financing mechanism to address homelessness and housing issues. The “initial community offering” will open up new sources of capital for the city and enable Berkeley residents to invest directly in their community.

The City, UC Berkeley Blockchain Lab and Neighborly are together launching the Berkeley Blockchain Initiative (BBI) to develop a first-of-its-kind tokenized municipal bond. The initiative will explore how to harness the power of blockchain and cryptocurrencies to democratize access to public finance and improve social outcomes.

Berkeley is struggling to build sufficient affordable housing, especially as federal funds dry up and the new tax bill restricts their financing capabilities. An initial community offering presents a unique opportunity to help raise the necessary funds through local investors to build low-cost housing while striving to improve social well-being and equity.

Berkeley Councilmember Ben Bartlett, who has been a leader in this blockchain effort, believes that "cryptocurrencies enable the City to mitigate some of these potentially detrimental effects and help localize the financing of crucial social policy initiatives. Blockchain's benefits, such as security, efficiency, transparency and speed, are not only applicable, but much needed at the government level to deliver better and more streamlined services to the people who need it most," added Councilmember Bartlett.

We’re on a mission to democratize access to municipal bonds, and the Berkeley Blockchain Initiative presents a unique opportunity for Neighborly to help the City of Berkeley tokenize the first municipal bond, built on top of our platform that can deliver low-cost, tax-exempt public finance offerings.

In the coming months, we’ll be working with Berkeley and UC Berkeley Blockchain Lab to build out the necessary technologies and protocols and plan to announce the full deal terms this spring.

For more information on the Berkeley Blockchain Initiative, see some of the press coverage of the launch:

If you’re a City interested in democratizing access to public finance, talk to our Public Finance team.

If you want to contribute to the Initiative, contact blockchain@neighborly.com.