Dozens of East Bay families on the brink of homelessness received the keys to their brand new homes Thursday, just in time for the holidays.
The struggling families are moving into a newly built apartment building in Oakland's Fruitvale neighborhood that is almost 100% affordable.
It's called Casa Arabella.
From the outside, the complex looks like all the other sleek market-rate apartment buildings that are going up in Oakland, and that's likely the reason there was a waiting list of 4,000 people praying for the chance to live there.
"Just in the nick of time!" Nicole Thomas said. "I thought, 'Where am I going to be living?'"
Days ago, Thomas was couch-surfing and using her car trunk as a closet. On Thursday, she’s marveling at all the closet space in her two-bedroom apartment.
"It’s like wow!" she said. "Me and my kids have a place to actually be as a family."
Thomas is just one of 400 people moving into Casa Arabella, one of Oakland’s largest affordable housing developments. Every tenant's rent is adjusted to what they can afford.
The $60 million dollar development is part of the Fruitvale Transit Village and sits on what used to be a BART parking lot. Thomas can see the BART tracks from her window.
More than a quarter of the apartments will go to homeless veterans. Navy veteran Jeff Ryan is one of them and says he already feels a sense of community.
"We all know how we got here, but we also share an appreciation of having such a fabulous place to live," Ryan said.
Thomas added: "We’re heading into the new year, new beginnings. It’s awesome."
Construction at Casa Arabella is ongoing. And it soon may have a neighbor, as the Unity Council, which spearheaded the development, is hoping to build another affordable housing complex next door, twice the size of Casa Arabella.
They’re hoping to begin building next spring.