SAN BRUNO — The San Mateo County Community College District on Thursday opened a new 30-unit employee housing complex at Skyline College, the third such project undertaken by the district in response to the area’s unaffordability crisis.
After the college found that staff and faculty faced increasing difficulty finding housing along the expensive Peninsula, the district has built two employee-housing projects at the College of San Mateo and Cañada College, adding up to 104 units, since 2005.
The district’s latest college is Skyline Vista, a three-story, 30-unit apartment complex on a 2-acre site at Skyline College. The multi-family development offers one, two and three-bedroom apartments spread among two 15-unit buildings, according to the college’s website.
“For nearly 20 years, our district has led the way in educational workforce housing,” district Chancellor Michael Claire said. “To add more units of housing, means we are able to provide opportunities to our faculty and staff to affordably live in the community they work and support a community that supports them.”
The homes have comfortable kitchens, private outdoor space, and plenty of natural light, as well as a dedicated covered parking space and secure bike storage for each unit. The buildings connect to two native landscape outdoor areas including a resident barbecue pit, and the traditional American architectural design blends with adjacent suburban neighborhoods.
The three-college district located between San Francisco and San Jose serves some 31,000 students each year and offers two-year degrees and transfer programs as well as vocational and technical courses.
The district has an Educational Housing Corporation which is responsible for the oversight of the employee housing program, including the maintenance and operation of the three complexes.
And it doesn’t stop at assigning apartments to staff and faculty, the district also has a homebuyer program. The program is open to those who have never owned a home in the last three years or ever; divorced or separated families; and those who lost their home because of foreclosure or short sale or own a home outside the Bay Area and have to commute at least 50 miles each way to come to work.
The district could give an employee a loan of $50,000 and up to $150,000 if they can do a dollar-to-dollar match and purchase the home with at least a 20% down payment. The school charges no interest in the first five years of the loan and usually, there are no closing cost fees, though there is a closing cost grant for $1,000.
Danielle Powell, who lives at Cañada Vista on the Cañada College campus, has lived in employee housing for nine years after moving to the Bay Area from Seattle. She took the job in large part because of the option to live in workforce housing, and she got her stay extended due to some construction that happened on campus during her tenure.
“This was a really tremendous blessing for me to be able to afford to live in California,” Powell said “I owned a place in the Seattle area but because of the 2008 market crash I lost my place and so coming here helped me to get back on my feet. I was able to get debt paid, help family members and live comfortably.”
But despite all the praise from administrators and people who live in these workforce apartments, Powell must leave her place in May after living there nearly a decade because of the district’s seven-year stay rule. She said she doesn’t know where she’ll go next.
“I have no idea where I’m going to go,” Powell said. “That is one of the challenges of people like me. I am a single person with one salary, so to be able to afford something on the Peninsula is not feasible.
“And I don’t qualify for affordable housing because I make just a little too much,” she added. “What apartments cost now is ridiculous, even when you make a decent salary. I wish that we didn’t have these limits.”
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