Community ownership model saves residents from eviction

Jayda is packing her family’s things into boxes, but she’s not moving. She’s preparing to temporarily relocate while her family’s home gets desperately needed repairs. It’s the end of what has been a very long road to home security for Jayda and her co-tenants, and the beginning of a happy new chapter in their lives.

Jayda and her family are members of a resident operated housing cooperative at 1432 12th Avenue in Oakland, along with four other families. Many of the residents have deep roots in the building spanning almost 20 years; over time the group has formed a deep cohesion on mission and values. “They say it’s remarkable that, when talking to us, you’re never really talking to an individual; you’re always talking to the house. We collectively make decisions,” says Christine, one of the resident members of the Co-op.

Multi-unit building on 12th Ave in Oakland recently acquired by BACLT

They got there the hard way. Years of landlord abuse and dangerous building habitability issues forged a bond as the residents fought together for a safe and affordable home. Finally, this June, the hard-earned battle was won when they intercepted the purchase of their building by a private developer in favor of a sale to Bay Area Community Land Trust (BACLT). Thanks to a loan from the Bay’s Future Fund (BFF) and affordable housing preservation financing from the City of Oakland, BACLT was not only able to purchase the house, but will make all critical repairs and preserve rent at below 50% AMI for current residents in perpetuity. BACLT, a longstanding nonprofit working to expand access to permanent affordable housing by establishing co-ops, will empower these residents to make decisions about the future of the building.

Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC) manages the Bay’s Future Fund. “We were thrilled to be able to help support and guide this project to fruition,” says Cindy Wu, Executive Director of Bay Area LISC. “This is what we’re all about. But this victory really belongs to a fiercely determined group of tenants. They turned this building into affordable housing. It’s an incredible story.”

It’s a story that heated up when two of the building’s residents discovered that 1432 12th Avenue had fallen into foreclosure, and into the hands of an investor looking to sell. Before they knew it, the investor had a buyer. The tenants acted fast to save the building’s affordability. Five of the six units in the building were occupied by low and extremely-low income households paying rents ranging from 31-50% Area Median Income (AMI). Though the building fell under Oakland’s rent control ordinances, so many renovations were needed to bring the building up to code that, if the building was purchased by a market rate developer, the costs of those improvements would be passed on to residents—pricing them out of affordability.

They reached out to BACLT for help.  The organization determined that the acquisition and preservation of their building was feasible but, given the low rents and how much work there was to do, they needed serious financing and low rates to make the deal work. This is where Bay Area LISC and the Bay’s Future Fund came into play.

The Bay’s Future Fund (BFF) is one of the loan funds under the Partnership for the Bay’s Future, a collaborative regional effort to protect, produce, and preserve affordable housing in the bay area. BACLT was already working with LISC on another affordable housing project and knew that the BFF had loan products that might work. They applied for a blend of financing from the BFF and the City of Oakland and got commitments from both.

“The project likely would not have been possible if we hadn’t gotten the low interest rates BFF was able to offer us,” says Miranda Strominger, Program Manager at BACLT, “Nor without their support. We sent some preliminary numbers to the underwriter at Bay Area LISC, and she really helped us push it through from the very start. They had an energy for it from the beginning.”

Miranda thinks back to when she first met the residents of 1432 12th Avenue, to talk with them about  whether they were ready to live as a co-op. “They said, ‘We’ve already been cooperating together for so long. That’s what we’ve had to do to survive.’” remembers Miranda. “So, it’s been very exciting to hear from some of the group that a lot of that stress and insecurity is gone. Now we get to sustainably work together as partners for their self-determination.”

While the house’s foundation is replaced, BACLT’s contractors will work on everything from repairing inadequate gas, electric, and sewage lines to replacing and repairing stairs and windows and installing a new roof. Residents will also get new flooring and kitchen appliances, and even some needed landscaping.

Jayda is thrilled. “From what I can tell from current market rates, a two bedroom in my neighborhood is close to $1600-$2000, but my rent is $1050. And my daughter is going to get a bedroom! They’re going to build a wall to make her own room. We’re also getting a washer and dryer, and I’m going to get a new stove and oven!”

Bay Area LISC is proud to leverage the Bay’s Future Fund to help support and protect these families from being displaced, especially during a global pandemic and look forward to funding more projects that protect, preserve, and build affordable homes for our Bay Area neighbors.

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