John Britt always dreamed of living in the “big city “– the one just a few miles from the West Oakland home of his youth. That life in San Francisco became reality in 1990, after John got out of the Navy; unfortunately, the dream eventually fell apart when John’s mother passed away and he fell on hard times, even becoming homeless for a short stint.
It took 2008’s election of the first African-American president to provide the impetus for John to get his life back on track. Seeking stable housing in an ever-more-expensive city, John had prior put himself on a waiting list with the San Francisco Housing Authority. After 15 years of patience, he finally moved into an apartment at 25 Sanchez, later moving to a studio on the fourth floor of 462 Duboce around the block.
John (photo, right) loves the area, saying, “It’s a beautiful neighborhood. You feel like you can go anywhere in the world from here.”
All would have been great except for the deferred maintenance on his unit — an all-too-common situation. There is actually more than $270 million in deferred capital repairs on San Francisco public housing properties.
To address this issue nationwide — with a $26 billion backlog of deferred maintenance at public housing sites — the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) created a new model called Rental Assistance and Demonstration (RAD). This program means cities like San Francisco may leverage debt and equity, from public and private sources, to reinvest in the public housing stock. All units must always remain affordable housing, with tenants’ rights intact.
HUD’s RAD program made perfect sense to be one piece of MEDA’s community real estate strategy aimed at not just producing 100 percent affordable housing in the Mission, but also preserving existing stock, such as that at 462 Duboce, part of the Mission-Castro Cluster.
Looking for experience in this realm, MEDA partnered with BRIDGE Housing. The pair now co-manage Phase I RAD properties: 42 units at 462 Duboce Avenue; 90 units at nearby 25 Sanchez Street; and 109 units at 255 Woodside. Phase 2 will include two other RAD properties, with 107 units at 3580 18th Street and 92 units at 1855 15th Street.
Charged with leading the relocation process of tenants such as John, MEDA Project Manager Leslie Palaroan and her team, including Dylan Hamilton (photo, left) have done their best to ensure that the experience is as trouble free as possible. States Palaroan, “As opposed to new construction, rehabilitation of an existing property is challenging, as we do not know what building issues will be revealed. Compounding rehabilitation, an occupied building requires that MEDA and BRIDGE Housing are constantly working to meet the daily concerns of our residents as their unit, and the building overall, undergoes remodeling. Relocation and construction are disruptive, and we are truly appreciative of how understanding tenants have been.”
MEDA and BRIDGE Housing have worked for over a year preparing residents for the refurbishment of their buildings. There were numerous on-site community meetings to ensure comfort with the process, complemented by individualized meetings with tenants.
While John immediately trusted that process, he knew that many of his neighbors were suspicious.
John explains, “Some residents, especially older folks, thought the new managers were going to take away their apartment. Raise the rent. With the housing market in San Francisco and all of the evictions you hear about, that’s understandable. In the building next door, they’re asking a million bucks for a condo. I really appreciate Leslie and the team for actually hearing my concerns and always getting back to me in a timely manner.”
This Wednesday, John will be moving back to his apartment — an apartment that has been overhauled. That includes everything from a brand-new kitchen and bathroom to the unit being painted and his deck now fixed. John’s Pekingese will be in tow. He named his dog Obama, after the person who helped changed his life.
“I feel blessed to be in my building. I am glad that MEDA and BRIDGE Housing are working together on this RAD program!” concludes John about how his life has changed for the better once again.