In NOW's latest Enterprising Ideas broadcast segment, we cross the Atlantic Ocean to report on a unique housing development in downtown London. Unique in part because it allows people of moderate means to live in the bustling downtown, which in many cities around the world has become too expensive for all but the wealthiest residents.
So we wondered: Can you make less than the median income and live in the heart of one of America’s finest cities? Turns out you can if you live in San Francisco. North Beach Place is a project similar to London’s Coin Street. North Beach Place provides affordable housing for low-income residents in one development close to the city’s famed Fisherman’s Wharf, the Powell Street trolley, and the popular North Beach. The three-story townhomes of North Beach Place comprise 341 units priced below market rate. Like the housing developed by Coin Street, North Beach Place sits on prime real estate near hotels and expensive neighborhoods.
Because it combines mixed-income housing and trendy retails shops, affordable housing developers around the United States look to North Beach Place as a model. The group behind the project, BRIDGE Housing Corporation , managed to bring in retail tenants like Trader Joe's and a Starbucks. The profits from these rental fees will be set aside for an “incubator center,” where residents can get help starting their own businesses.
North Beach Place represents a new breed of subsidized housing in the United States. The tall, ugly housing “projects” that rose up in cities around the country in the 1950s and 60s segregated residents from the rest of the world. Coincidentally, the spot occupied by North Beach Place formerly housed one of those dismal housing projects. Poorly managed, rife with rodents and crime, the project was demolished. Now, many former residents of that failed housing project have moved into the “clean, well-lighted place” created by North Beach Place.
BRIDGE is one of California’s biggest developers of affordable housing and differs from many conventional public housing developers in its use of creative financing to support its projects. In order to support projects like North Beach Place, BRIDGE uses a combination of grants, donations, and income generated by fees it gets from its property management and developer services.
In addition to being close to public transportation, North Beach Place includes a child care center, a computer room and a place for teenagers to hang out. No doubt these innovative features are the result of the fact that, from the get-go, BRIDGE involved residents of the former public housing project in the design of North Beach Place.
What do you think? Is North Beach Place the future of affordable housing? Have you seen it? Know someone who lives there? Let us know by leaving a comment in the form below.