Affordable housing lacking, but city has plans for more

Affordable housing lacking, but city has plans for more

Laura Casey

Alameda Vice Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft talks to those gathered at the Homes are the Heart of Alameda panel discussion and tour about how important it is to have a mix of home choices in Alameda. Photo by Laura Casey.

Alameda boasts a variety of homes, from owner-occupied single family homes to studio apartment rentals. There’s just not enough housing in the Island city.

At least that was the consensus Saturday morning at the Homes are the Heart of Alameda panel discussion and home tour in which 30 people, mostly affordable housing advocates, discussed plans for more varied types of housing in Alameda and looked at spots where such housing is planned and others where it is successful.

“We’re hoping to see much more housing and make it more possible for people to have more choices,” said Helen Sause, president of the Alameda Development Corporation, which works to bring all types of housing to Alameda, from home ownership opportunities to rentals for extremely low-income individuals and families.

The panel discussion was held at the Park Alameda Apartments, 2428 Central Avenue, where the Islander motel used to be. As the Islander, the property was dilapidated and the Alameda police were frequently called there to address crime and domestic issues. As Alameda’s newest affordable housing property, the grey and burgundy building has 62 studio units rented to low-income workers and is considered a safe and quiet living community.

Event panelist Debbie Potter, the city's interim community development director, said it isn’t easy getting funding to build new affordable housing - especially after state lawmakers dissolved local redevelopment agencies, which issued bonds against future property tax revenues to help fund affordable housing. But with some private partnerships and a bit of creativity - and the some final remnants of the former redevelopment agency's tax-directing powers - ground has been broken on new developments like the Jack Capon Villa at 2216 Lincoln Avenue, a former city parking lot that's slated to become home for low-income adults with disabilities in late 2013.

“You hear how Alameda takes care of its own,” Potter said, “and supplying affordable housing is one of the ways Alameda does take care of its own.”

After the panel discussion, about 15 people took a bus tour of the city to see sites that are thriving with affordable housing and other sites, like the old Pennzoil factory on Grand Street, where new housing is expected to be built for people at all income levels. The city's general plan anticipates 78 new homes at the Pennzoil site, along with 30 units at each of two sites at the Alameda Marina on Clement Street, and 21 more homes are envisioned at Island High School's former Eagle Avenue home.

Three homes on Santa Clara and Walnut streets are now occupied by low income residents and don’t appear any different than the houses nearby, while Parrot Village contains 50 quiet units managed by the Alameda Housing Authority on Wood, Chapin and St. Charles streets.

Ann Cook, a former Planning Board member, said she’s very interested in seeing more affordable housing in Alameda. Cook, who's a member of the Alameda Home team, which hosted the event, said that most of the currently occupied affordable housing projects blend in with the community and that it is important that people of all income levels can live in the city.

“We want to be able to house our community members who might not be able to make the wages to buy in Alameda,” she said. “Even if they can’t buy they are still members of our community.”

The event was part of the 17th annual East Bay Housing Organizations’ Affordable Housing Week, which features 20 events in six cities in Alameda and Contra Costa counties that include panel discussions, grand openings of developments, construction tours and groundbreaking ceremonies.

The public is invited to the Park Alameda grand opening from 10 a.m. to noon Wednesday, May 15 at 2428 Central Avenue. Those interested in checking out the new development can RSVP by e-mailing or calling 841-4410, ext. 310.