City of Berkeley offers low-income homebuyers lottery to buy affordable homes

Josh Kahen/Staff

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The city of Berkeley announced an affordable housing plan Jan. 9 for first-time and low-income homebuyers in order to help alleviate Berkeley’s housing crisis.

According to a city press release, the units are specifically available for first-time homebuyers whose income is no more than $79,360 or $99,120 a year, depending on the type of unit. Individuals who meet the two major requirements and are interested in housing are encouraged to apply with the property owner, Bloom Berkeley, by 5 p.m. on Feb. 6.

There are 11 more units in the 41-unit complex, located on San Pablo Avenue. Bloom Berkeley will be hosting an open house Jan. 24.

“The project was approved by the Zoning Adjustments Board in June 2007,” said Stefan Elgstrand, spokesperson for Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín. “Under state law, 20% of the base units need to be set aside for below-market rate, which is why the project has six units set aside at this level.”

The application calls for the submission of a number of documents, including a pre-approval letter containing the highest loan the homebuyer would need from a lender. Applicants will then be placed in a lottery, however, this placement will not guarantee an approved application.

According to the press release, applicants who live or work in Berkeley will be given preference in the lottery.

The units were created through a city of Berkeley law, which utilizes large market-rate development to fund the units. The city notes on its website that the policy known as “inclusionary housing” helps contribute to more affordable housing in Berkeley.

Developers’ decisions on whether to build condos or apartments in Berkeley will determine if the city will be able to offer more affordable homes to those in need, according to city spokesperson Matthai Chakko.

“In addition to inclusionary rental and condo housing, the City helps nonprofit developers build affordable housing,” Chakko said in an email.

Arreguín addressed the housing crisis in a blog post from August 2019 and announced the approval of Measure O —  a $135 million general obligation bond that will subsidize the construction of affordable housing.

According to Chakko, one such project is the Grayson Street apartment complex, which is located right across the street from Bloom Berkeley. The city has also implemented a loan system for low-income seniors and disabled homeowners for repairing or modifying their homes.

“Given the extreme housing crisis facing the entire Bay Area, we’re looking for as many ways as possible to increase affordable housing in Berkeley,” said Berkeley City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley in the city press release. “We’re excited that this opportunity also increases the pool of home ownership.”

Contact Olivia González-Britt at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Oliviagbritt.