habitat for humanity

Photo: Courtesy of Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco

Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco is an organization focused on strengthening communities, restoring homes and revitalizing local neighborhoods. Recently, it took on the task of creating Habitat Terrace, a 100 percent affordable housing development in San Francisco’s underutilized Ocean View neighborhood.

The dedication ceremony for Habitat Terrace took place this past weekend, and BuzzBuzzHome had the opportunity to ask Maureen Sedonaen, CEO of Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco, some timely questions. Read on to see what she had to say.

BuzzBuzzHome: How many families applied to live at Habitat Terrace?

Maureen Sedonaen: For Habitat Terrace, Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco received the most applicants in its 27-year history. For the 11 homes, we received 411 applications. This showcases the dire need for affordable housing in the Bay Area.

The incoming 11 families currently live in San Francisco, all within miles of Habitat Terrace, and are longtime San Franciscans who have been in the city from anywhere between seven and 38 years. They make up the backbone of our workforce — most work in the healthcare, hospitality, transportation and construction industries. [They] are elated to be able to remain in San Francisco, the city where they have built close-knit communities and grown their careers, and where they school their children.

BBH: What did the selection process for Habitat Terrace entail? Given the low percentage of children in the city, did you specifically look for families with children?

MS: Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco is an equal housing opportunity provider, and potential homeowners must meet Habitat’s general requirements regarding residency, credit and income. Our incoming 11 homeowners all completed an extensive selection process, including a review of their financial status, job history, residency and other qualifications. Habitat applicants must meet certain income guidelines, have good credit, a minimal level of debt and be willing and able to perform the 500 hours of labor to build their own home. These homes were sold to qualified homeowners through the traditional Habitat model of zero down payment, 0 percent interest and a mortgage payment equal to one-third of the family’s income, capped at 30 percent of their annual income. The incoming 11 families received the keys to their homes at our home dedication ceremony this past Saturday.

The remaining 17 homes at Habitat Terrace are certified as below-market-rate housing and will count towards a for-profit developer’s affordable housing requirement. These homes are currently being sold through the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development to families who make up to 90 percent of the area median income. The families of the below-market-rate homes are targeted to move in late this spring.

BBH: Was Habitat Terrace built entirely by volunteers and/or the families moving in?

MS: Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco’s construction crew, volunteers and our newest Habitat families all help build Habitat Terrace. While some construction activities such as foundation pouring were subcontracted, Habitat utilized its network of thousands of volunteers to build Habitat Terrace. Volunteerism is a core part of Habitat’s model that shares a belief that when we invest in our neighbor’s quest to become a homeowner, it benefits the whole community.

BBH: Why do you think Ocean View is one of San Francisco’s lowest-ranking districts for new affordable housing developments? Why do so many families in these developments put at least half of their income toward rent?

MS: As an organization, we do not have an answer to this question, but a previous report from OMI service providers MOHCD and SFSU calls out the fact that “…the OMI community has also suffered from a lack of visibility and resources compared to other areas of San Francisco.”

BBH: What is the number one obstacle San Francisco is currently facing in achieving more affordable housing?

MS: Historically, Habitat has acquired land through partnering with redevelopment agencies (RDAs), which would identify areas in need of affordable housing and help fund the acquisition. Due to cuts in state funding over the years, RDAs have been eliminated. There has been a 66 percent reduction in California’s investment in affordable housing production since 2008 due to cuts in state funding and the elimination of RDAs. This represents a loss of over $1.5 billion.

Now, affordable housing developers must not only identify, but purchase land to build. In a land-constrained market, where housing costs have immensely increased, affordable housing providers are paying market-rate prices to build affordable housing. We’re looking to energize leaders in our community to make a significant investment in affordable homeownership opportunities.

For too many Bay Area residents, the dream of homeownership is fading fast. Purchasing a home at market rate is prohibitively expensive, with median home prices nearing seven figures. And with median rents hovering at more than $3,000 a month, low-income families are struggling just to get by, let alone to save for emergencies or a possible down payment. The drastically shifting economy is forcing families into smaller, crowded and often unsuitable dwellings. The diminishing affordability in the Bay Area should not be the reality in one of the most forward-thinking regions in the country.

BBH: After Habitat Terrace, what will Habitat for Humanity San Francisco’s next big focus be?

MS: Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco is currently building 10 single-family homes just two blocks away from downtown Novato. The development, Mt. Burdell Place, is expected to open this summer and will provide much-needed affordable housing to Marin Count.

Habitat is also getting ready to break ground on a development of 20 condominium homes located at 612 Jefferson Avenue in downtown Redwood City. The building will include one-, two- and three-bedroom condos for families earning up to 80 percent of the area median income. 612 Jefferson Avenue will be Habitat’s tallest building constructed to date, with five residential stories built atop a parking structure. This condominium development will offer a solution to the immense need for affordable housing in the Bay Area peninsula by creating transit-oriented living opportunities in a county where a majority of employees commute from neighboring counties for work.

Habitat is planning to develop 30 townhomes on Block 8 of the newly revitalized Hunters View development in southeastern San Francisco. Block 8, situated in the heart of the master Hunters View development, will add affordable homeownership to the mixed-income, mixed-tenure community built to replace 267 dilapidated public housing units with approximately 800 high-quality homes and resident services. The development will include a mix of two- and three-bedroom flats and townhomes built above shared parking garages.

Finally, Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco is greatly expanding its work in neighborhood revitalization, which rallies Habitat’s massive support base to provide critical home repairs to low-income residents, to renovate community facilities and to restore parks in the neighborhoods where Habitat builds. Whether it is repairing a homeowner’s roof, refurbishing a youth center, or helping to create a community garden, these actions help to turn underserved neighborhoods into vibrant places to live. Our home repair program is intended to give longtime homeowners the opportunity to stay in their homes and remain in their communities. Our neighborhood revitalization effort focuses on two neighborhoods: Bayview and East Palo Alto in San Francisco.

BBH: Is there anything additional you would like our readers to know?

MS: In the face of the housing crisis, Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco believes that affordable homeownership can help provide a long-term solution for families to remain in the Bay Area by providing families a real opportunity to build wealth and ensure generational stability.

Homeownership is an incredibly important wealth-building strategy for low- and moderate-income Americans. And, Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco remains the only provider of affordable homeownership opportunities for households in the 40 to 80 percent area median income. In this income range, you can find the teachers, firefighters, nurses, police officers and construction workers who are continually displaced from our vibrant community due to the lack of affordable housing. Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco is an important piece of the complex pie that makes up the possible solutions to our region’s affordability crisis.

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