Teresa, a longtime Redwood City resident, has been a teacher for the past 20 years. Every Thursday evening, you can find Teresa at Saint Pius Catholic Church with her prayer group who gather to help serve those in need.
Teresa has three daughters, all who grew up in Redwood City. Her twin daughters, Brianna and Kayleen, are currently pursuing master’s degrees in counseling. Both Brianna and Kayleen want to use their degrees to work in schools that serve low-income and underserved populations. Her youngest daughter, Rocio, is currently pursuing her MBA and working for the County of San Mateo. Rocio wants to also give back in her future career in the nonprofit or government sector.
After too many nights crowded in a one-bedroom apartment, Teresa and her daughters were able to set down roots in Redwood City in 2005 when Teresa became a Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco homeowner. Teresa grew up in Redwood City and was struggling to stay in a community she had called home, while raising her three children. With her mortgage payment set at 30 percent of her monthly income, Teresa had predictable housing payments and was able to set aside money for her daughters’ education. No longer burdened by housing costs, Teresa was able to save money for her family’s future. Their home became a catalyst for financial stability, which created new opportunities for them to grow and thrive.
Teresa is one of Habitat Greater San Francisco’s 52 Redwood City homeowners. Like Teresa, many Habitat homeowners are set on a path to financial security. With their homes as their anchor, families are able to establish long-term roots in their communities. Affordable home ownership offers many benefits, not just to individuals, but to the entire household, neighborhood and surrounding community. A recent homeowner survey completed by our Redwood City homeowners showed that 87 percent are saving for at least one goal and that 74 percent feel their families have financial security.
Here in the Bay Area, the dream of buying a home is unattainable for most, with only 14 percent of households able to afford a median-priced home in San Mateo County. Home ownership and building equity should be for everyone — not just for the high-income elite.
In Redwood City, Habitat is stepping up to the challenge and call for affordable housing by building a development of 20 condominium homes located at 612 Jefferson Ave. This will be home to 20 hard-working families who earn up to 80 percent of the area median income (up to $86,000 a year for a family of four). These are the essential workers — educators, first responders, administrative staff and construction professionals — who bolster and make possible the Bay Area’s growing economy.
Sadly, Habitat is facing aggressive opposition from a handful of community members. The traditional Not in My Backyard (NIMBY) arguments base concerns on assumed characteristics of the residents, and repercussions of new development such as, building height, and fears of traffic caused by new residents.
When I hear these arguments, I think about Teresa and her family. I think about the thousands of families like hers who just want a safe, healthy, affordable place to raise their children and put down roots. What a terrible loss it would be for the Bay Area to lose local families who have such a commitment to community as housing costs continue to climb to astronomical levels. I think about how Habitat can be a part of the solution.
As it stands, 612 Jefferson Ave. is the only 100 percent affordable family home ownership development currently proposed for Redwood City.
We need the support of the community to be able to build it and to inspire Redwood City to seek more affordable housing opportunities for families.
Habitat Greater San Francisco has been an affordable home ownership developer in Redwood City for the past 28 years. Habitat has accomplished this with strong community support and hundreds of dedicated San Mateo County residents who have served as loyal volunteers.
We are calling on the community of Redwood City to support local families like Teresa and her three daughters and their dream to live, stay and grow in the community they call home.
We need your support and we welcome you to join our efforts.
Maureen Sedonaen is the CEO of Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco, which builds homes and community in partnership with volunteers, families, donors and civic leaders in San Mateo, Marin and San Francisco counties.