Nonprofit developer Affordable Housing Associates broke ground on one of their latest projects Tuesday.
When complete, the eight-story building at the corner of Madison and 14th streets in Oakland will offer 79 units of affordable housing and 2,700 square feet of ground floor commercial space, said Susan Friedland, AHA executive director.
People within an income range of $14,000 to $47,000 a year will be eligible to rent the apartments, which include studios and 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom units. As part of a partnership with First Place Fund for Youth, 47 units will be reserved for emancipated foster youth.
The apartment plan is thought to be the first to combine mixed-use affordable housing with apartments set aside for emancipated foster youth, said Sam Cobbs, executive director of First Place Fund for Youth, which promotes self-sufficiency in children emancipated from the foster system.
"We don’t want to isolate our young people," Cobbs said. "We want them to be connected to the community they grew up in. … We’re actually the guinea pigs on this thing."
When children in the foster system turn 18, they are booted out with no home, no resources and no connections, Cobbs said. They are more likely to become homeless, more likely to be arrested and more likely to have a child within 18 months of leaving the system.
"How many of you were ready at 18?" Cobbs asked the 100-person crowd at the groundbreaking ceremony. "How many of you never had to call your parents?"
Joe Smith, 22, was placed in the foster system after his mother abandoned him in a park when he was 2.
"When I turned 18, I was homeless, without a job and with no place to go," Smith said.
When he found out about the First Place Fund for Youth program, he thought it was too good to be true. Now he’s working on his career goal of becoming a homicide detective.
The new apartments and others like them could save emancipated foster youth from the homelessness that pervades Oakland, said Carletta Starks, a liaison for Oakland City Council Member Nancy Nadel.
"It does take a village to raise a child," Starks said.
Financing for the apartments came from the City of Oakland Redevelopment Agency, the California Department of Housing and Community Development, the Oakland Housing Authority and other sources.
Since 1993, Affordable Housing Associates has developed or rehabilitated 21 residential and mixed-use buildings around the East Bay.