As East Palo Alto seeks to increase its stock of affordable housing, it is revitalizing its below-market-rate housing (BMR) program with the help of a longtime ally: East Palo Alto Community Alliance Development Organization (EPA Can Do).
The city in February brought back the nonprofit organization to administer the program, analyze East Palo Alto's current BMR housing stock, develop a housing database and ensure that homeowners in the program are in compliance with the city's ordinance.
EPA Can Do, which has built and maintained affordable housing in East Palo Alto since 1989, is already making inroads. In May, the organization purchased a BMR unit at 1765 Bayshore Road and on July 15 offered it for sale through a lottery.
EPA Can Do is no stranger to the city's BMR program, having initially been hired to run it in 2003. The program required developers of for-sale housing to set aside a number of units — up to 20% — for low-income buyers. EPA Can Do helped the purchasers obtain the homes and monitored them for compliance, with restrictions on refinancing, resale and subletting, according to the organization's website.
As production of new homes slowed, however, the city chose to operate the program using its own staff. Now as the housing market heats up, and with the city leaders pledging to find as many avenues to building new affordable homes, staff are again turning to EPA Can Do. The City Council awarded a three-year, $125,000 contract in February to EPA Can Do and the Bay Area Affordable Homeownership Alliance, an experienced BMR-program administrator.
According to a city staff report, EPA Can Do is currently assessing the city's 108 BMR units to determine if they are all in compliance with the city's regulations. The nonprofit has already found 12 units at "high risk" after public records showed the owner might no longer live at the address or there are liens against the property for more than the restricted resale price.
EPA Can Do plans to have a more detailed analysis in the fall, city staff told the council on Tuesday. The organization plans to recruit a full-time program manager by the end of August.
The organization also plans to meet with homeowners to answer questions and ensure they are in compliance with the program and discuss common concerns such as refinancing, renting out and remodeling units in the coming months.
Since its inception, EPA Can Do has developed 336 affordable housing units in the city, according to its website. Its portfolio in East Palo Alto includes Serenity Senior Housing Apartments, a 41-unit low-income apartment complex for seniors ages 62 and older; Clarke Avenue Apartments, 15-unit rehabilitated complex built in 1998; Peninsula Park Apartments, which has 64 market-rate units and 65 below-market-rate apartments; Bay Oaks Apartments, a 38-unit low-income complex built in 1994 in partnership with MidPen Housing Corp.; Light Tree Apartments, a 94-unit complex of rehabilitated units that will soon add 128 new affordable units; and Nugent Square Apartments, 32 units of affordable housing constructed in 2006 in a joint venture with Eden Housing, Inc.
EPA Can Do has also sponsored a home-buyer's fair, launched an anti-predatory-lending program and initiated a housing coalition to advocate for affordable housing in the city. More than 5,800 people have participated in its home-buyer and financial-literacy workshops.