A Vision of Faith: Interfaith Housing Celebrates 50 Years

Published by the Independent: Thursday, October 18, 2018 12:00 am

Interfaith Housing (IFH) is marking a milestone of 50 years as a non-profit corporation that owns and operates three apartment communities in Livermore providing low-cost housing for senior citizens. The organization began by partnering with local religious groups and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which currently subsidizes Interfaith’s 207 units through rental assistance.

IFH started as the “germ” of an idea from a dynamic woman named Gladys Worthington who, in collaboration with the Oakland Council of Churches and Satellite Senior Homes, Inc., shared her vision for low-cost senior housing with the local Livermore/Pleasanton Ministerial Association. A persuasive and informative presentation by Worthington inspired the group to form an exploratory committee in early 1966. Worthington, who was familiar with the HUD’s Section 202 housing laws and provisions, explained how local faith communities could partner with HUD to purchase land and develop senior complexes.

The minutes of the first committee meeting on June 7, 1966, show that Jim Willows of First Presbyterian, Rev. Denton (Denny) Roberts and Mrs. Mildred Miller of First Christian Church, Jerry and Sara Maloney of St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal, and Herb Newkirk of Holy Cross Lutheran attended. After more than two years of meetings, Interfaith Housing’s Articles of Incorporation were signed by many of the same people on Nov. 13, 1968. IFH is commemorating that 1968 incorporation in their 50th year of developing, operating and maintaining affordable housing for seniors.

From the nucleus of these early visionaries sprang the Interfaith Housing program of today. Sponsoring congregations donated seed money to start the first project, and land was purchased on Hillcrest Avenue with the assistance of the City of Livermore. Construction began with the help of a temporary loan from the regional Presbyterian Synod.

Hillcrest Gardens, located at 550 Hillcrest Ave., opened its doors and was ready to welcome new tenants in June 1971. The complex offers 54 one-bedroom units, mostly project-based Section 8; residents pay only 30% of their income in rent.

Opening in March 1982, Vineyard Village, with 74 one-bedroom apartments at 3700 Pacific Ave. in Livermore, came next through partnership with the City of Livermore, which guided and helped the organization obtain a HUD 202/811 Project Rental Assistance Contract (PRAC) loan. The third complex, Arbor Vista, was again built with funds provided by a PRAC loan with help from the City, which has assisted Interfaith in the acquisition of land for each site. Arbor Vista opened in 1998 and has 79 one-bedroom apartments.

Interfaith Housing’s sponsor organizations have changed over the years, but at present they are Asbury United Methodist Church, Congregation Beth Emek, First Presbyterian Church, Holy Cross Lutheran Church, St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, St. Michael Catholic Church, and Unitarian Universalist Church in Livermore. Each sends one or two volunteers to serve on the IFH board.

The IFH board now shares management of the three complexes with a professional property management company (currently HumanGood). Earlier this year, IFH partnered with Satellite Affordable Housing Associates (SAHA) of Berkeley to develop a fourth complex, and on Nov. 1, 2018, SAHA’s property management division will take over the administration of the current properties as well. SAHA evolved from Satellite Senior Homes, Inc., one of Interfaith’s first connections—bringing IFH full circle and back to its early roots in the affordable senior housing development community.

Interfaith Housing has exciting plans for the future. In partnership with SAHA, Interfaith has entered into an agreement with the City of Livermore to build a senior apartment complex at the end of Pacific Avenue—right across from IFH’s Vineyard Village community and just up the bike path from Arbor Vista. Thanks to Vice-Mayor Bob Woerner, the 3.5-acre parcel was made available for senior housing by the Livermore Rodeo Stockmen’s Association, which accepted land for a park downtown in return for releasing the City from a 56-year-old obligation to provide a Stockmen’s Park on the Civic Center campus. IFH and SAHA are working with the City and the Dahlin architectural firm to build as many as 140 one-bedroom senior apartments, including units for veterans and formerly homeless individuals, on that site in the next three to five years.

The IFH board of directors, led by current President Laning Thompson, will celebrate its 50 years of providing affordable senior housing with a reception at the Arbor Vista community on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018.