a rendering of a green and blue 5-story building
Six new low-income condo units are available for purchase at 2747 San Pablo Ave. Rendering: Thomas Dolan Architecture

There’s a home for sale in Berkeley for $162,000 — and no, that’s not missing a zero.

Low-income, first-time buyers can apply for one of six new affordable condominium units in southwest Berkeley, an extremely rare opportunity in a high-cost city.

“This is the first below-market-rate ownership project in the last 14 years” in Berkeley, city spokesman Matthai Chakko told Berkeleyside.

City law requires 20% of the units in newly constructed condo projects to be reserved for low-income buyers. At the new 41-unit “Bloom Berkeley” complex at 2747 San Pablo Ave., fewer than 20% of the units are affordable, however, because state law permitted more market-rate density there, according to the city. The location is the old site of the Berkeley Patients Group cannabis dispensary, which quickly relocated after it was forced to close its doors in 2012.

Bloom Berkeley’s five low-income one-bedroom condo units and one three-bedroom condo cost between $162,000 and $230,000, and there are monthly homeowners association fees required as well. Applicants are eligible if they have never owned a home before and earn up to $79,360 or $99,120, depending on the unit type and size of their household. People who live or work in Berkeley will be given priority, per city law.

The condo costs are a fraction of the market price for housing in Berkeley, which Red Oak Realty reports as $638,000 for a one-bedroom home and $1.26 million for a three-bedroom. Zillow’s median home value in Berkeley is similarly $771,000 for a one-bedroom and $1.3 million for a three-bedroom.

Over the last decade, Berkeley has approved five new condominium projects, constituting 85 units, Chakko said. Project applicants can opt to pay a mitigation fee instead of keeping 20% of the units affordable.

The city also regulates the conversion of rental units to condos. There is an annual limit on the number of those approved units, but property owners rarely apply for the conversions, city records show.

In 2008, the first year of the condo conversion ordinance in Berkeley, 10 applicants applied for 35 unit conversions, 26 of which were approved that year. In 2018, three applications (10 units) were submitted, and in 2019 one applicant (three units) applied for a conversion. There were two applications approved each of those years. Conversion applicants are required to pay the city a fee, designed to mitigate the impact of taking housing units off the rental market.

A version of Bloom Berkeley, which is near San Pablo Park and Berkeley Bowl West, was first approved in 2007, and then again in 2015. Prospective buyers can check out the affordable units at two open houses, Jan. 24 and Jan. 31.

Applications are due by Feb. 6, and a lottery will be held Feb. 10. Several documents are required in order to apply.

The selected buyers will be allowed to retain ownership of the units even if their incomes later exceed the eligibility limits, Chakko said. But owners enter into an agreement with the city, promising not to resell the condos for more than city-designated affordable prices.

Find more information on the city’s website.

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Natalie Orenstein reports on housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. Natalie was a Berkeleyside staff reporter from early 2017 to May 2020. She had previously contributed to the site since 2012,...