February 7, 2018

In-depth: Desperately-needed affordable housing coming to Emeryville


EMERYVILLE (KRON) — Federal housing statistics estimate 12 million renters and homeowners now pay more than 50 percent of their annual income for housing.

The government recognizes that if you pay 30 percent of your income on housing, you need may need help finding something affordable.

Bay Area cities know this crisis all too well, and in Emeryville, “affordable” is becoming a reality.

But you have to qualify to get in.

“Eighty-seven units,” said Welton Jordan, who is the vice president of real estate development for EAH housing. “You’ll probably have four-to-five hundred people living here.”

After four years, and countless hours of tough negotiations between more than a dozen agencies, desperately needed affordable housing is coming to the City of Emeryville

Construction on Estrella Vista on San Pablo Avenue began in June.

It is a $64 million project, and the apartment complex should be ready to start housing families in the summer of 2019.

“For this building, we’ll probably have thousands of applicants, of which we can only house 87,” Jordan said.

EAH is a non-profit affordable housing developer, managing more than 100 properties in the Bay Area.

Estrella Vista is its latest project.

And the best part of this project is when it’s all finished, all of the units inside will be considered 100 percent affordable housing.

“That means that people making 30 to 60-percent of the area median income will be able to afford to live here, and the rent will be based on their salary and income,” Vice Mayor Ally Medina said.

The area median income for a family of four in Alameda County is $97,400.

Medina says 70 percent of her city is made up of renters, and she’s one of them.

“Even though the City of Emeryville was able to give the land and a loan of four-and-a-half million dollars, we would not be able to make this project happen by ourselves,” Medina said. “We were really appreciative of our partners.”

One of those partners is the City of Oakland.

It is a fitting collaboration since the new development sits on the border of both cities.

“The City of Oakland provided about pretty much four-to-five million dollars, and that way,” Oakland Director of Housing and Community Development Michele Byrd said. “We’ll have 30 units dedicated to Oakland residents.”

Byrd says in addition to the Estrella Vista project, the city has received 16 new applications from developers to build more affordable housing.

“And we’re looking at hopefully over the next three to five years, with those 16 applications, to build about 1,500 units of affordable housing,” Byrd said.

In 2011, a state supreme court ruling resulted in the elimination of all 400 California redevelopment agencies, which typically funded affordable housing projects.

Losing RDAs puts more of a burden on developers like EAH Housing to secure funding for these projects.

Often, developers rely on the state density bonus law to expand projects and build more units.

The density bonus law is a state housing mandate that allows developers who qualify to skirt zoning ordinances and increase a project’s density by up to 30 percent, if a certain amount of the building is set aside for affordable housing.

“It probably allowed us to go an extra story up,” Jordan said.

And a few extra units here and a few extra units there may not sound like a lot, but with the Bay Area experiencing a housing crisis, every little bit counts.