San Francisco

First of 24 ‘Oaktown Roots' Affordable Homes Soon to be Occupied

A public/private partnership is planning to build 24 three- and four-bedroom houses, to be sold at below-market rates, on vacant parcels either abandoned or in tax default.

This pilot program, called "Oaktown Roots," is a partnership of the City of Oakland, the Alameda County Tax Collector, the nonprofit Hello Housing of San Francisco and Walnut Creek-based Presidio Realty Advisors. The first four of these houses are now complete, and the first family is expected to move in before the end of May, according to a joint release from the four participating entities.

Two rental apartment buildings will also be part of the Oaktown Roots project, to be set aside for families earning a maximum of 80 percent of the area median income.

The single-family houses will be sold to low- and moderate-income homebuyers earning up to 120 percent of area median income in Oakland. The houses, in East and West Oakland, are priced between $475,000 and $550,000.

"Significant demand for affordable housing in the Bay Area and in the state of California persists, and we believe the 'Oaktown Roots' pilot can become a successful road map for Oakland and other communities that want to expand the availability of affordable housing options," said Jennifer Duffy, Hello Housing's vice president. She said more than 1,100 pre-applications were received for the first four homes.

To qualify, prospective buyers must submit an application to Hello Housing and are then entered in a lottery. The required down payment is 3 percent, and prospective buyers must be mortgage-ready. Those selected may also be eligible to apply for down payment help through Alameda County or the City of Oakland.

The benefits of the program include creating sorely needed affordable housing in a county in the midst of a housing crisis; returning abandoned properties to the tax rolls; cutting down on visual blight and garbage-dumping cleanup costs for those parcels; and enhancing the vitality of Oakland neighborhoods dealing with long-term blight these parcels have helped create.

The first Oaktown Roots residents figure to be Aurora Barajas and her family.

"Without this option, we may not have had an opportunity to become homeowners in the community we love, due to rising home costs," said Barajas, an Oakland native and 16-year educator. "I hope this program continues to help Oakland natives and people contributing in this city to be able to afford to stay in Oakland."

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