While grateful to be living with an empathetic friend since January, couple Margarita Contreras (photo, right) and Ana Luisa Murga (photo, left) missed having their privacy. This arrangement followed an expensive month in a hotel after an owner move-in displaced the Excelsior residents from their in-law unit.
Margarita and Ana Luisa hail from the same town in Mexico, although it wasn’t until they both immigrated to San Francisco that they forged a relationship. Both work long hours in the kitchen at local taquerias to make ends meet.
When their no-fault eviction became imminent last fall, the couple met MEDA Community Organizer Dairo Romero at an affordable-housing workshop he held at Mission Neighborhood Health Centers. Per a City of San Francisco grant, Romero has been leading such workshops across the southeastern quadrant of San Francisco, a collaborative of community-based organizations being formed to ensure that Latinos are fairly represented in below-market-rate (BMR) rental lotteries.
Romero availed Margarita and Ana Luisa of the BMR apartment options in San Francisco. He helped the mostly monolingual Spanish speakers understand the ins and outs of the BMR lottery process and its Area Median Income ranges, plus helped them fill out applications to numerous developments. Romero also helped them gain a leg up in the lottery via a Displaced Tenant Housing Preference, granted to those who have lost their home due to no-fault eviction since 2010 or due to disasters such as a fire.
Looking to stay near culturally relevant services and family-serving businesses, the couple decided upon Vara, ideally located at corner of Mission and 15th streets just one block from a BART station. This development, which opened five years ago, has 20 percent affordable housing on-site — a community benefit fought for by Mission residents at a time when only 12 percent was mandated. That translated to 40 out of 202 units being designated as affordable housing.
A recent voluntary move out led to one 518-square-foot studio becoming available at Vara — and now being Margarita and Ana Luisa’s new home. The rent is just over $1,000 per month, which is much less than a similar market-rate unit price of $3,270.
The couple’s unit includes a washer/dryer, dishwasher and good-sized bathroom. The look is modern and clean.
Amenities abound at Vara: There’s the airy courtyard with outdoor kitchen, the clubhouse with bar and lounge seating, a fitness center and even a bike repair shop. There’s even free coffee every morning to get residents’ days started.
“We are happy and excited to move in at the end of the month. This apartment is much better than where we had been living. Perseverance is key,” explains Margarita, beaming with pride based on the fact that she and Ana Luisa remained steadfast in finding their new home.
It will definitely be a Happy Pride 2018 for this Mission couple.