Luz Bourne-Ruiz is an energetic, single mother of 7-year-old Nathan, who attends Alvarado Elementary School in San Francisco. The immigrant from Mexico operates her own business, the New Alternatives Cafe, a cozy, neighborhood eatery serving breakfast and lunch on Guerrero near 28th. Featuring a convivial environment, there’s even a piano, guitar and congas for musically inclined customers to break out in spontaneous song after enjoying open-faced bagels and classic egg dishes.
Bourne-Ruiz originally came to MEDA seeking homeownership opportunities. She took the First-Time Homebuyers workshop — held in English and Spanish on the second Saturday of each month — to create stable, long-term housing for her small family. It was discovered that Bourne-Ruiz’s self-employment income, after expenses and deductions on her tax returns, was too low to obtain a sustainable below-market-rate (BMR) mortgage loan.
Then Bourne-Ruiz’ worst fears were realized when her landlord stopped by last March with an ominous-looking letter: a 60-day eviction notice. When Bourne-Ruiz asked questions, the landlord stated coldly, “Everything you need to know is in the letter,” as he abruptly departed.
This impending owner move-in meant Bourne-Ruiz and her child would soon be forced out of her beloved home of over a decade, with her foisted into one of the most pricey apartment-rental markets in the nation. Bourne-Ruiz was distressed, to say the least.
That’s when Housing Opportunities Coach Diana Mayorga came into the picture, immediately ramping up efforts to get her client into a BMR rental. Bourne-Ruiz was already what MEDA deems rental ready, meaning she had a good credit score (must be better than 650), didn’t have any collections (must be under $500) and met BMR income guidelines for the developments to which she was applying (vary by property). When clients don’t meet these requirements, a MEDA coach works with them to develop a plan to become rental ready.
Bourne-Ruiz simultaneously worked with Causa Justa :: Just Cause, located in MEDA’s Plaza Adelante neighborhood center, and successfully obtained an extension on her eviction timeframe. That community-based organization also helped her apply for the Displaced Tenant Housing Preference certificate through the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development (MOHCD). That preference greatly increases the odds of winning a BMR rental lottery.
Mayorga assisted with submitting applications for numerous BMR rental properties: Sweeney Apartments in neighboring Daly City; and 480 Potrero, 125 Mason, 200 Buchanan, 280 Brighton and 1401 Mission, all in San Francisco. While this process can seem daunting, especially with an imminent eviction hanging over your head, Mayorga counseled Bourne-Ruiz to keep the faith, be patient and remain diligent.
The good news? Bourne-Ruiz eventually won the lottery … on her sixth try.
At the end of December, she and her son moved into 1401 Mission, which is a brand-new property called Olume in the community straddling the Mission-SoMa border. Olume was awarded “Best New Development of 2016” by the San Francisco Apartment Association. There’s a rooftop deck with 360-degree views of San Francisco. Fire pits to break the evening chill. Even an on-site pet park.
Interiors are pretty swank, with everything from sliding bedroom doors to quartz kitchen countertops to vessel sinks in the bathroom. There are 18 BMR rentals, with Bourne-Ruiz’s rent affordable at around $1,250 per month for her family’s two-bedroom unit.
“I am incredibly grateful for the City’s BMR rental program, as well as for MEDA’s assistance in helping me apply for lotteries and coaching me about affordable-housing options. I am excited to be in my BMR apartment, which is safe, clean and new. My son loves it, too!” explains a grateful, and relieved, Bourne-Ruiz.