McGee Avenue Baptist Church housing project made possible through $1M loan

Isabella Ko/Staff

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A $1 million city loan to the 101-year-old McGee Avenue Baptist Church will allow it to reopen its rental property to low-income residents, as first reported by Berkeleyside.

The project — which will involve reopening the Stuart Street Apartments — is supervised by the Bay Area Community Land Trust, or BACLT, a nonprofit community organization that aims to preserve land and housing for community buildings as well as help community members self-manage their own property for permanently affordable housing.

“The church has had this property for decades and it has been closed for over 20 years,BACLT program manager Miranda Strominger said. “In the middle of the housing crisis, they wanted to put the building back to use and create affordable housing.”

According to a BACLT press release, the project is funded by Berkeley’s Small Sites Program, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, the Bay’s Future Fund and the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The press release also said that the Stuart Street Apartments are located next to the church, which has provided community services to South Berkeley’s African American community for years. The property will become a permanently affordable low-income housing cooperative.

“We have a long-term agreement with the church to repair the building, and we expect residents in October 2020 … to educate the residents so that folks can manage their own building,” Strominger said.

The church acquired the apartments in 1978 to provide housing to its low-income members, according to a BACLT press release. The apartments became vacant and inoperative after an increase in the cost of living and a decline in the congregation.

Housing at the Stuart Street Apartments will be available to Berkeley residents earning between 50 percent and 80 percent of the area median income, according to a BACLT press release.

“Myself and the city were always sort of interested in developing that piece of land with the church,” said Berkeley City Councilmember Ben Bartlett. “They’re (the church) looking for the perfect partner to help them realize an affordable housing goal.”

Bartlett added that the City Council passed the Small Sites Program legislation, which aims to buy apartments, stabilize rent and make housing affordable.

The project took years to develop as it was deemed “unusual,” according to Berkeleyside. The church will maintain ownership of its building, while the BACLT would help restore and maintain the Stuart Street Apartments.

According to Bartlett, the church wanted to develop a housing project for a long time.

“The housing goals are threefold: produce housing, preserving affordable housing and protecting the tenants,” said Bartlett. “Here, we do two out of the three and that’s really exciting.”

Contact Thao Nguyen and Marc Escobar at [email protected].