Meet Our Housing Team
From housing policy and advocacy to sharing best practices,
our Housing Team is devoted to the goal of housing affordability for all.

Matt Huerta, Housing Program Manager


Matt has over 20 years of experience in affordable housing and community development. He has developed hundreds of affordable housing units across the San Francisco and Monterey Bay Areas. He has led nationally recognized housing programs as a former Executive Director of Neighborhood Housing Services Silicon Valley. Matt serves on the Board of the California Coalition for Rural Housing. He earned a B.S. in Community and Regional Development from the University of California at Davis where he also served as the President of the Associated Students during his senior year. Matt has lived in Salinas since 2005. He enjoys exercising, playing basketball with friends and spending time outdoors with wife Diana Huerta and four young children. 

Alexia Garcia, Community Engagement Associate


A proud Salinas native, Alexia feels a strong connection to the Monterey Bay Region and the people who live here. Having graduated from Hartnell College, she is currently working toward completing her Bachelor of Arts in Politics at UC Santa Cruz.

While at Hartnell College, she served as Vice President of the Sociology Club where she worked with local leaders to increase student advocacy and previously served on the Monterey County Civil Rights Commission. Today she remains deeply invested in her community and in her free time can be found enjoying the outdoors with her four rescue dogs.

Alexia is thrilled to be part of MBEP’s housing initiative and looks forward to working towards creating a better region, ensuring all who call our community home can live in one.

Emmy Ham, Housing Program Associate


Emmy was born and raised in Portland, Maine but has since made the Central Coast her home. After some time working for an affordable housing developer in Portland, she decided it was time to put her passion into action and moved to Monterey to pursue her MA in Public Administration at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey. She focused her studies on the housing crisis, and dug deep into the theories and frameworks that further the initiatives of social organizations like MBEP. 
In her free time, Emmy enjoys running along the coastline of Monterey Bay, and singing whenever and wherever she can! She is excited to begin this new chapter of her career with Monterey Bay Economic Partnership to ensure that all members of our community, whether from near or far, have an affordable place to call home. 
Rafael Hernandez, Housing Program Associate


From community organizing, filmmaking, teaching, consulting work, and volunteering, Rafael has over 20 years of experience working for immigrant and underserved communities throughout California and in multiple countries abroadHe’s taught thousands of grade school students and many others at Hartnell college, was a volunteer teacher for gang youth at Rancho Cielo, and has worked with countless farmworker families in supporting their children’s education in the Salinas Valley. He focuses on housing because he sees housing as central to people’s lives. 
Rafael earned his B.A. in Sociology from the University of California at Berkeley, and his Masters in Public Administration at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. He is an Education Pioneers Fellow, an award-winning documentary filmmaker, and speaks four languages. He is an avid practitioner of mixed martial arts and writing rap poetry. Above all, he is a committed father whose favorite thing in the world is being with his son.
Ashley Gauer, Program Manager, Special Projects


Raised in one of the most multi-cultural, geographically isolated population hubs on earth, Ashley realized the importance and value of community and collaboration early on. She went on to deepen her sense of community in San Francisco, where she earned a BA in Bio-Psychology and Minors in Public Service and Philosophy. She holds Certificates in Business Administration and TESOL amongst others, has studied and volunteered across three continents and helped launch social enterprises and schools in Cambodia to support education and economic mobility. Ashley has a longstanding history in international education, non-profit administration and program management working with a diverse set of stakeholders in both urban and rural settings.

Ashley obtained two Masters at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS), in International Education Management and Public Administration. She helped MIIS earn its Fair Trade School certification, and launched the Institute’s first ‘Impact Faire’, a pop-up marketplace to support fair, mission-driven social enterprises. An ongoing student of Earthship Biotecture, yoga, sustainable and equitable economic and community development, Ashley is an advocate for radically sustainable buildings, closed-loop systems, local food production, alternative healing modalities, circular economies, co-ops and social entrepreneurship. She is a maker of sorts, and an outdoor adventure junkie.

Ashley values conversations and experiences that spark innovative, entrepreneurial ideas to solve some of the most pressing issues of our time. It is in her blood to connect and engage people, especially our youth. She has a passion for social change organizations, and is excited to support MBEP’s initiatives.