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East Palo Alto housing complex gets facelift

City, housing developer prepare to celebrate renovation project

After months of repairs and a temporary relocation, East Palo Alto residents will celebrate today the recently completed renovation of their housing complexes on Woodland Avenue.

The nonprofit developer MidPen Housing has recently completed a $20.8-million rehabilitation project on the 49-unit affordable-housing community known as Woodland Newell. The community is composed of two separate apartment complexes, one of which was developed in 1989 and the other in the late 1960s. According to MidPen Housing, both were in need of "extensive rehabilitation" in 2013, when the two communities were merged into one entity.

The housing community includes six studios, 16 one-bedroom, 11 two-bedroom, eight three-bedroom and eight four-bedroom apartments. They are geared toward families that earn up to 60 percent of the area's median income, which in San Mateo County is up to $66,420 for a family of four.

The renovation was launched about six months ago and was performed in phases. Residents in the affected apartments were temporarily relocated to neighboring communities, with MidPen Housing covering all the costs of relocation, said Beth Fraker, spokeswoman for the organization.

To celebrate, residents will join MidPen officials, project contractors and council members for an open house and a ribbon-cutting between 4 and 7 p.m. today, Oct. 14.

Councilman Ruben Abrica, who lives in the neighborhood and has long been a critic of landlords raising rents in the area, said the tenants seem to be "very happy" with the recent renovations. The MidPen Housing project, he said, "stands out for several reasons."

"They have regular people come by and do activities with the kids and check in with the neighbors and the tenants," Abrica said.

The renovation includes new kitchens and bathrooms with new appliances, cabinets, flooring and low-flow fixtures, according to a statement from the company. The parking area has been seismically upgraded and new, energy-efficient features have been added to the properties, including solar hot-water systems and double-pane windows. Drought resistant plants and ground covering were also installed to decrease water consumption.

Matthew O. Franklin, president of MidPen Housing, said the organization's priority was to "preserve its affordability while enhancing the community in a way that improves the lives of residents."

"We revamped the community building which will benefit the many youth who participate in the educationally based After School Program housed there and incorporated green building features throughout the property which will lower residents' monthly utility bills," Franklin said in a statement.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony will begin at 5 p.m. today at 1751 Woodland Ave.

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