Berkeley receives $42M in grants to build affordable housing

File of Ashby Avenue and Adeline Street.
Nirvana Ellaboudy/File
The Maudelle Miller Shirek Community project, which is located near the Ashby BART station, will provide affordable housing units for low-income Berkeley residents.

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Two Berkeley affordable housing projects have been awarded nearly $42 million in state grants for transit-oriented development.

The grants are funded by the state Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program, which aims to encourage partnership between cities, transit agencies and housing developers to build affordable housing and sustainable transportation. When complete, the two projects will collectively provide 150 units of affordable housing.

“Affordable housing is a necessity, not a desire, and it is critical that we find viable solutions to homelessness, especially now in the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Councilmember Cheryl Davila at a press conference held to announce the grants.

The funds for the grant were provided by California’s cap-and-trade auction, and both of the projects aim to reduce vehicle greenhouse gas emissions by strengthening public transit, said Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín at the press conference.

The first project, the Maudelle Miller Shirek Community project, named in honor of former Berkeley councilmember and activist Maudelle Shirek, will receive about $22 million in funding, according to a city press release. The project will provide 87 affordable housing units for low-income Berkeley residents, with a focus on accommodating large families and providing permanent supportive housing for formerly homeless families, the press release states.

The Maudelle Miller Shirek Community project is located close to the Ashby BART station, and improvements will be made to public transit in the area to provide better bus, bicyclist and pedestrian access, according to the press release.

The second project, Blake Apartments, was awarded $19 million and will create 63 affordable homes, according to Susan Friedland, the chief executive officer of Satellite Affordable Housing Associates, or SAHA, the organization planning the development.

The Blake Apartments project also includes development of the Ohlone Greenway by the North Berkeley BART station to improve pedestrian and bike transportation routes, according to a city press release.

The state grant will provide about 20% of the total development costs for Blake Apartments, Friedland said in an email. SAHA will apply for the remaining funding over the next several months and aims to start construction in March 2021, Friedland added.

According to a city press release, the housing projects were facilitated by Measure O, a $135 million bond for affordable housing approved by Berkeley voters in 2018. The bond has provided $36 million to four developments, including the Maudelle Miller Shirek Community and Blake Apartments.

“Affordable housing is scarce, so too are the resources necessary to bring new units online amidst a global pandemic,” Arreguín said in the press release. “Our housing crisis has implications for affordability, transportation, homelessness and more, and that means this significant investment will have benefits for the entire community.”

Contact Alexandra Feldman at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @a_p_feldman.