By Meghan Hall
A completely-affordable housing project in Emeryville is striving to spearhead a different type of development: intergenerational housing. Proposed by EAH Housing, the 68-unit project had to clear several hurdles before it could be considered by City officials, including a change to California civil codes.
“The emphasis on this particular site was to create an inter-generational housing model,” explained EAH Housing’s Chief Real Estate Development Officer Welton Jordan. “Legally, due to California civil codes, you could not do it…We worked with the City and other advocates and now we are launching our initial design work, and we’re excited to be a part of it.”
The project is intended to serve a mix of senior housing development and youth aging out of the foster care system. Under previous law, intergenerational housing could not receive tax credits, which are generally a critical part of the financing strategy for affordable development. With the help of Senator Josh Becker (D), EAH Housing and Emeryville City officials worked to pass Senate Bill 591, which officially took effect on January 1, 2022.
“The scale of our housing crisis demands creative solutions,” said Senator Becker in a statement at the time the legislation was signed. “SB 591 offers a solution to simultaneously address the affordable housing needs of vulnerable seniors and vulnerable young people while enhancing the well-being of both and strengthening the fabric of our communities. Intergenerational living spaces create a dynamic and supportive community that traditional forms of age-restricted housing cannot match.”
Located at 4300 San Pablo Avenue, the units will be a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments ranging in size from 440 square feet to 850 square feet. Units will be priced at those making between 30 to 60 percent of Area Median Income (AMI), or between $690 to $1,770 per month. 54 of the units will be designated for seniors, 14 for transition-age-youth.
The project will be designed by KTGY Architects and will utilize mass timber and vertical parking concepts to make the most of the small, 0.47-acre site. The architecture will highlight the mass timber while also employing warm materials. The building will also be setback from its neighbors, providing light and space for tenants.
“We really dedicated more space to amenities or open air for the residents,” said Jordan. “And we felt like that was important. We do want interaction; we want people to come out of their units and congregate and not need to leave the building to do it.”
Currently, the project is working through the design phase. In all, it is expected to cost about $44 million to build, and comes at a time when a lack of general housing affordability in the San Francisco Bay Area has reached all-time highs.
“We’re in a unique situation as affordable housing developers. We are faced with housing the most vulnerable or the hardest hit but at the same time have to deal with all of the challenges of the general, broader market: labor, materials, sustainability,” said Jordan. “We are the leading edge when it comes to that; our dollars are heavily regulated and they come with other requirements. It’s a challenge but it gets us out of bed every morning.”
EAH Housing, a nonprofit, was originally founded in 1968 and has since become one of the largest nonprofit development and management organizations in the United States. According to the organization’s website, EAH has more than 600 staff and manages 222 properties in California and Hawaii. The organization now serves more than 25,000 students, families, and those with disabilities. To date, EAH has developed 106 properties with a development cost of $1.8 million.
Since then, said Jordan, those championing affordable housing have come a long way.
“Affordable housing is now on a lot more people’s minds than it has been in the past,” said Jordan. “There’s a lot more acceptance. [However] it has taken too long to bubble up to the surface.”