Established in 1968, Eden Housing (Eden) is a not-for-profit affordable housing provider based in the state of California, dedicated to providing high-quality affordable homes for vulnerable households. The project initiated from the innovative use of the common inclusionary housing policies which enabled the gathering of affordable housing units in a same area for greater public benefit. The initiative completed in 2008 includes a series of regular community meetings and more comprehensive community planning efforts to directly benefit 78 low-income families in the city of Hayward, earning between 15 and 50 per cent of the Area Median Income. Residents work at health centres, schools, and in light industry and include medical and dental assistants, counsellors, beauticians, mechanics, retail clerks, servers, and cooks. As the long-term owner of Walker Landing, Eden continues to professionally manage and maintain the property as well as providing supportive resident services to its residents.
Aims and Objectives
- To provide high quality, well-managed, service-enhanced, healthy housing affordable to low-income families, improving substandard infrastructure, upgrading utilities and improving roads in order to transform and revitalise the neighbourhood.
- To create a model inclusionary housing partnership with a local, private sector homebuilder.
In the current Northern California Bay Area housing market, the household income of low-income renters is failing to keep pace with inflation while rental rates across the Bay Area continue to rise. In 2009, the ‘Fair Market Rent’ for a two bedroom in Alameda County was US$1,295 per month, affordable to households earning at least US$51,800 per year, i.e. 125 hours per week at minimum wage. In 2008, the apartment vacancy rate in the Bay Area steadied after a long decrease due to the addition of some new units, but rental rates continued to rise. The average rent has risen by 12 per cent since 2007 to US$1,686.
Bay Area homeownership rates still lag far behind the nation and the state, and the market is not producing enough of the kind of housing options needed at the lower end of the income scale. According to the Housing Element of the City of Hayward’s General Plan, approximately 33 per cent of Hayward households have four or more members; however only 16 per cent of rental units have three bedrooms or more. This indicates that there is likely to be moderate to severe overcrowding in rental units. More than 41 per cent of Hayward’s tenant households pay 30 per cent or more of household income for housing and 18 per cent pay more than 50 per cent of their household income for housing. Walker Landing provides affordable, high quality, energy-efficient three bedroom homes for low-income families, addressing a critical housing need in the area.
Walker Landing is a 78-unit deeply affordable new build rental housing development serving low-income families in Hayward, Northern California. It demonstrates how to provide affordable housing in the face of limited financial support from the state and is the result of the City of Hayward’s inclusionary housing policy passed in 2004. Inclusionary housing policies, common throughout the country, require market rate homebuilders to set aside a specific percentage of units in a new development as affordable housing. Traditionally, these policies have required the developers to scatter a few units throughout a larger subdivision. However, in Hayward, a more flexible policy allows the City to realise greater public benefit.
Land was provided for the project by a for-profit developer as a way of meeting its planning gain obligations to provide 26 units of affordable housing. Rather than build this small number of affordable units across several different sites, it provided 3.5 acres of land and gap funding to support the development of this project which provided almost three times as many units.
The project includes nine apartment buildings comprising two-storey townhouses and flats, arranged around three courtyards on a former brown field site where an abandoned pickle plant was located. The development includes a community building that opens onto a central courtyard, outdoor seating and play areas, and barbeque and picnic areas. Smaller courtyards located throughout the development supplement this central common space. All units also have private open space in ground floor patios or second story balconies. The community room and computer learning centre are used for resident activities and programmes such as technology education and after-school and summer enrichment youth programmes. The community room contains an on-site property management office and can be opened up to the larger community as needed.
Built to a high sustainability specification, the project addresses issues of energy efficiency and waste management. It is located close to public transportation and school facilities and includes many green features, such as minimised demolition and construction waste, a tight well-insulated building envelope, optimal-value engineered wood framing, durable and healthy flooring and finishes, natural shading and ventilation to keep units cool, and water-efficient and climate-appropriate landscaping.
The total capital costs for the development were US$26.3 million. The DeSilva for-profit developer, working within the guidelines of the Hayward inclusionary housing policy, donated the land for the project and a US$3 million gap subsidy to Eden, allowing Eden to leverage additional forms of financing for the project including loans and tax credits. The financing structure of Walker Landing is made up of multiple funding sources, reflecting the partnership between agencies required to finance affordable housing in a high-cost area like the San Francisco Bay Area in California. The ongoing revenue costs of the project are funded entirely by the rent paid by the residents. Service costs are paid from the property operating budget.
- Over 1,500 applications were received for the 78 apartments, which were fully rented out within two months of completion, evidencing the strong pent-up demand for affordable family housing in the neighbourhood. The project provides much better living conditions than what families can otherwise expect paying similar rent in the private market and by charging below market rents, families are able to spend more of their household earnings on food, utilities, clothing, and education.
- Walker Landing reused a brownfield site where an abandoned pickle plant was located, transforming it into a vibrant affordable residential community. As a result, the area infrastructure was upgraded significantly with the implementation of new roads, sidewalks, and utilities. The development of Walker Landing is part of a larger redevelopment plan for the area, and the project serves as a catalyst for the development of high-quality housing and revitalisation of the Mount Eden area.
Why is it innovative?
- The project is an innovative solution to the challenge of providing affordable housing in the context of limited availability of public funding with its inclusionary housing partnership model and the creative use of the local regulations on provision of affordable housing by local developers to ensure that a greater number of affordable housing units could be obtained.
- The project’s Resident Services Programme, which helps to improve the life opportunities of low income residents.
- Collaboration with other local organisations to help fund the services provided to residents, as well as to create greater community awareness and involvement with the various programmes on offer.
What is the environmental impact?
- The redevelopment involved an environmental cleanup and the removal of toxins from the site soil of the old pickle plant.
- One hundred per cent of the concrete that covered the brownfield site was broken up and recycled. In addition, construction waste was greatly reduced, with the recycling of 90 per cent of wood debris and 86 per cent of mixed debris.
- Formaldehyde-free fibreboard and low VOC paint, adhesives, sealants and flooring were used throughout.
- The project includes a tight, well-insulated building envelope, windows with a U-factor of 0.40 or lower and Solar Heat Gain Coefficient value of 0.40 or lower, and an energy-efficient combined hydronic HVAC water and space heating system.
- The project maximises natural daylight and cross ventilation and ceiling fans eliminate the need for air conditioning.
- Energy Star appliances were installed in all units; the central laundry room has Energy Star washers and gas fuelled dryers.
- The project is conveniently accessible to public transportation and within walking distance of jobs, schools and services.
- The project involves the redevelopment of a brownfield site and has served as a catalyst for the regeneration of the area.
- Bio swales address storm management issues, filtering roof and site rainwater before it enters the storm water system.
- Mediterranean landscaping helps to provide shading, conserve water and reduce solar gain.
Is it financially sustainable?
- Property operations are funded 100 per cent by rent paid by the residents. Services costs are currently paid entirely from the property operating budget and are not dependent on any additional financial support.
- Eden has been successfully carrying out its affordable housing activities over the last 40 years and is in a strong financial position. Funding is in place for 15 new developments, which are scheduled to go into construction in the next two years.
- The construction of Walker Landing created over 150 living wage temporary construction and professional jobs. There are currently three employees working at the site, including a property manager, services coordinator and maintenance person.
- In close proximity to Walker Landing is the Clawiter industrial corridor and an employment centre. The nearby Southland Mall, Hayward Medical Centre, and a variety of local shops also provide employment opportunities.
- Walker Landing serves families earning between US$13,500 and US$46,000 per year, or between 15 and 50 per cent of the Area Median Income. Rents range from US$450 to US$1050, depending on size and income. If a tenant’s income goes down and a lower income unit is available, the tenant can move to the lower income unit or have their unit reclassified as a lower income unit. Resident services staff also help connect people with other temporary rental solutions in the community.
- Inclusionary housing policies are a creative way for municipalities to increase affordable housing development. The goal of these policies is to ensure the continued growth of the region makes room for people at all income levels.
- There are three regulatory agreements recorded against the property requiring that the property be used and maintained as affordable family housing, ensuring that Walker Landing will remain affordable for a minimum of 55 years.
What is the social impact?
- Quarterly events and activities are held to bring residents together for recreation and cultural community building. The Summer Recreation and Enrichment Programme includes activities on cultural exchange, environmental awareness, community service and field trips, providing a safe space for children to interact with other young people in their community.
- A range of support is provided to both adult and youth residents through the Residents Services Programme, including a Homework and Activities Club that provides after-school tutoring and enrichment for children, use of the Eden Computer Lab facilities with associated training in the use of computers, financial literacy programmes for adults and homeownership training.
- Walker Landing helped decrease local crime rates by restoring an abandoned property to active use and by putting eyes on the street. Residents participate in a community Neighbourhood Watch Programme in order to create a safer place to live.
- Eden’s support services staffs work with residents to provide information and referral to local resources that will meet their individual needs, such as rental assistance, job searches, resume writing, health insurance and day care.
- An annual scholarship programme is available to residents aged 16 and over to pursue academic and/or vocational goals.
- Eden works to empower its residents through its supportive resident programmes which, in addition to the activities mentioned above, also include programmes for English as a second language and citizenship classes, health education and wellness clinics, educational workshops and opportunities for socialisation and recreation.
- After the environmental cleanup was certified complete and whilst the site was being graded to prepare it for construction of the new development, an undocumented underground storage tank was encountered, which could have caused significant construction delays. Thanks to a great degree of cooperation and communication between Eden, DeSilva, DTSC and the City, the tank was removed and cleanup up promptly and the construction schedule was not significantly impacted.
- Because of the critical need and high demand for affordable housing in the area, it would be desirable to have an affordable housing development with a higher number of units that can serve more low-income families. This, of course, is dependent upon many factors including funding and the land on which the housing is built. It is also desirable to have more units for families at the lower end of the economic spectrum such as those earning below 30 per cent of the Area Median Income.
When California’s 2004 energy code update went into effect, on the advice of energy consultants Eden as well as other affordable housing providers set a goal to exceed code requirements by 10 per cent, rather than their usual goal of 15 per cent. At the end of construction, the HERS rater found that Walker Landing was 12 per cent more energy efficient than required by the code, and that if they had used a more efficient water heater they would have been 15 per cent more efficient, and eligible for the electric utility’s Energy Star New Homes programme. In future projects they will stick with their original 15 per cent goal.
- Extensive ongoing monitoring and evaluation is carried out, including property operations performance reviews, using a monthly property management scorecard system; an annual physical needs assessment to assess capital improvement needs; financial reports; and performance reviews on the provision of the Resident Services programmes, including resident attendance and participation, homework completion rates and computer lab use in the after-school programme.
- A post-occupancy evaluation was carried out in the summer of 2009 to obtain resident feedback on the design, development and management of the property. The survey results were highly positive, with Eden residents expressing their satisfaction with the development, their units, and the services that they receive on the property.
Eden has used this inclusionary partnership model with for-profit homebuilders in several of its later projects in Northern California, including a mixed-use affordable housing development for low-income seniors near downtown Hayward. Eden currently has 257 new housing units under construction, three additional developments comprising 205 units which are due to begin construction in 2010 and seven projects currently at feasibility stage, comprising an additional 757 units.
A number of small cities without an established affordable housing infrastructure have requested support from Eden to help craft inclusionary building policies. The project’s inclusionary partnership approach has been looked at by a number of jurisdictions throughout the USA and holds tremendous potential for small communities where the annual allocation of federal funds is too small to support an affordable housing development of any scale.
The supportive services model used in Eden’s projects has been shared widely with policymakers, and as a result variations of it are shared widely locally, nationally and internationally. Eden’s work has been shared through the Housing Partnership Network, which has international exchange with the UK, Canada and Australia.
NGO, Private, Local community