2001 Ashby Ave., from Ashby and Adeline Street. Image: MWA Architects

The city of Berkeley has secured $42 million in state grants to build 150 new affordable housing units spanning two projects in South and West Berkeley, the mayor’s office announced this week.

Mayor Jesse Arreguín said it’s the largest sum he could recall Berkeley ever having gotten from the state for affordable housing over his 16 years serving the city.

The money will help build the Maudelle Miller Shirek Community, an 87-unit project at 2001 Ashby Ave. (at Adeline Street), and Blake Apartments, a 63-unit project at 2527 San Pablo Ave. (at Blake Street). The money, which city staff secured through the state’s Strategic Growth Council’s Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program, will also fund millions of dollars in transportation improvements at both sites.

The mayor noted that both projects will be built in parts of Berkeley that have seen gentrification and displacement.

“It’s significant for a city of our size to get a $42 million dollar allocation,” Arreguín said. His office announced the news during a press conference earlier this week.

The city received word of its successful grant application June 26, he told Berkeleyside on Thursday.

Both projects have unique elements, the mayor said. Blake Apartments was originally slated to become market-rate housing, but its original developer later sold the project to Satellite Affordable Housing Associates (SAHA).

Now, the six-story building is set to serve as affordable housing for families and people with special needs, according to project materials. All units will be available to households with incomes at or below 60% of the area median. In addition, 12 units are reserved for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.

The Maudelle Miller Shirek Community, from Resources for Community Development, will be located by the Ashby BART station on the site of what is now Cooperative Center Federal Credit Union. The complex will have 86 rental units affordable to households earning 20%-60% AMI, as well as one manager’s unit. Twelve units will be set aside for formerly homeless and disabled residents.

The credit union is set to move to a new location at The Higby, at Ashby and San Pablo avenues, by February 2021. That could change depending on the project timeline but the credit union has said it will keep the public informed via its Facebook page.

The mayor said the city’s 2018 Affordable Housing Bond, Measure O, made it possible for Berkeley to seek grant funding through the state’s cap-and-trade program.

Several years ago, Arreguín recalled, the city was criticized by some members of the public for failing to apply for any state cap-and-trade dollars to help with local housing. That was because the city had no money available at that time to put forward to leverage.

“The matching requirement is a key part of eligibility for state funds,” he said. With Measure O, that has changed. The local match allows Berkeley to seek money from the state as well as private loans and other financing.

Cap-and-trade money has also been used in Berkeley for the Berkeley Way project, a site set to include both affordable housing and permanent supportive housing, and for SAHA’s Grayson Apartments at 2740 San Pablo Ave.

“This is just one part of Berkeley’s broader efforts to create affordable housing,” Arreguín said this week, “which is one of the most pressing issues in our city.”

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...