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Cesar Chavez Foundation and Housing Authority of the County of Kern Break Ground on High-quality Affordable Housing Community in Bakersfield, Calif

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Cesar Chavez Foundation and Housing Authority of the County of Kern Break Ground on High-quality Affordable Housing Community in Bakersfield, California 

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (October 30, 2023) The Cesar Chavez Foundation and Housing Authority of the County of Kern announced the groundbreaking of a new affordable housing community in Bakersfield, Calif. Renaissance at Baker will create 85 units of affordable housing for low-income families and persons with disabilities, including individuals and families experiencing or at risk of homelessness. 

The groundbreaking marks the start of construction of the 85 units, comprised of 37 one-bedroom units, 21 two-bedroom units and 26 three-bedroom units reserved for families earning between 30%-60% AMI. Forty-two of the units will be reserved for persons with disabilities with incomes at or below 30% AMI. The development will seek a highly sustainable LEED-certification and is designed by Y&M Architects. It will feature an outdoor space spread out over two courtyards that includes spaces for sitting and a life-size chess area. The total development cost for the project is $48.5 million.

The Housing Authority of the County of Kern, a local government agency providing safe, affordable housing to thousands of Kern County residents through special programs serving families, individuals, senior citizens, veterans, persons with disabilities, homeless, farm workers and emancipated foster youth, will provide residents with on-site service programs.  

“Renaissance at Baker will address a significant shortage of affordable housing and the need to assist Kern County’s homeless and chronically homeless,” said Paul Chavez, President of the Cesar Chavez Foundation. “Our mission is to improve the lives of working families, and this development is a step towards achieving that goal in an area where my father began his work more than 60 years ago.” 

“We’re pleased to partner with the City and Cesar Chavez Foundation to help revitalize the Old Town Kern neighborhood and bring much needed affordable housing and services to the area,” said Stephen Pelz, Executive Director at Housing Authority of the County of Kern. 

“Building new affordable housing for the most vulnerable of our community in a once vacant lot is an investment in the wellbeing of Bakersfield residents and aligns with the City of Bakersfield’s revitalization efforts for Old Town Kern,” said Bakersfield Councilman Andrae Gonzales 

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Grand Opening of Plaza Ortiz in El Monte

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Cesar Chavez Foundation announces grand opening of high-quality affordable housing community for homeless veterans & low-income residents in El Monte named for U.S. Army Cpl. ‘Mac’ Ortiz Jr. who died during Korean War in 1950 

El Monte, Calif. (June 29, 2022) – The Cesar Chavez Foundation (CCF) held a grand opening celebration on June 29 for a new affordable housing community for homeless veterans and low-income residents in El Monte. The property is named Plaza Ysabel “Mac” Ortiz, in honor of the 19-year-old El Monte native who was killed during the Korean War and whose remains were returned nearly 70 years after he was reported missing in action. The 53 units of housing for homeless veterans and low-income households features onsite social services provided in partnership with Step Up, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit delivering compassionate support to people experiencing serious mental health conditions, and persons who are experiencing chronic homelessness so they can recover, stabilize, and integrate into the community. The property also features a new mural by artist Ignacio Gomez honoring Ysabel “Mac” Ortiz and other community heroes.  

The project houses a Si Se Puede Learning Center, Chavez Foundation’s flagship afterschool program for young residents and 6,849 square feet of space for residential services, recreational meeting space, conference and meeting rooms, and staff office space as well as to provide services and resources for homeless veterans.  

Ysabel “Mac” Ortiz joined the U.S. Army at age 17. He was serving during the Korean War, assigned to an M-19, small anti-aircraft tank with an exposed cockpit in the 7th Infantry Division when he went missing while in combat in North Korea on Dec. 2, 1950. Barely past his 19th birthday, Cpl. Ortiz’s remains were never recovered. DNA testing confirmed he was among the remains of 55 U.S. service members turned over to the U.S. by North Korea almost 70 years later in 2019. He was brought home, buried in Riverside National Cemetery, and posthumously awarded the Purple Heart. 

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Grand Opening of Los Portales de Lena Guerrero in Austin

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Cesar Chavez Foundation announces grand opening of high-quality affordable housing community in Austin named for the late Texas legislator Lena Guerrero

Austin, TX (June 10, 2022) – The Cesar Chavez Foundation (CCF) held a grand opening celebration on June 10 for a new affordable housing community in Austin. Los Portales de Lena Guerrero, named for former community activist and railroad commissioner Lena Guerrero, features 97 units of affordable housing for families including four permanent supportive units for transitional-aged youth in partnership with Lifeworks, an Austin-based nonprofit dedicated to transitioning youth and families from crisis to safety and success.

“We’re pleased to open our our second affordable housing community in Austin to address the needs of Latinos and working families. It’s fitting to name this property after Lena Guerrero, a positive force in the community who fought tirelessly for farmworkers and the disenfranchised,” said Paul Chavez, President, Cesar Chavez Foundation. “She embodied the values of our organization’s founder, civil rights and farm labor leader Cesar Chavez.”

The community houses a Si Se Puede Learning Center, CCF’s flagship afterschool program available to young residents and features a picnic area, playground and multi-use community space as well as provide housing and resources for transitional-aged youth in the Austin area.

The property is named after Lena Guerrero, whose work championed the rights of farmworkers. She was the second Latina elected to the Texas Legislature where she was known as one of the state’s most effective lawmakers. In 1991, she became the first woman and first Latina to serve on the Railroad Commission of Texas where she led the effort to help independent oil and gas producers increase production in Texas at a time when the industry was struggling, and was a strong advocate for the use of alternative fuels.

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Cesar Chavez Foundation hosts Covid-19 vaccine event at its affordable housing community in Fresno

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The Foundation will partner with the UFW Foundation to provide vaccines to community

Fresno, Calif. (June 21, 2021) – The Cesar Chavez Foundation (CCF), in partnership with the UFW Foundation, will host a vaccine clinic at its newest affordable housing community in Fresno on June 22 from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. The event will take place at Las Palmas de Sal Gonzales and vaccines will be available to members of the community at no cost with no appointment required.

“The Cesar Chavez Foundation is looking forward to once again partnering with the UFW Foundation to host a vaccine event at our newest affordable housing community in Fresno,” said Paul Chavez, President of the Cesar Chavez Foundation. “The Foundation is dedicated to working with its partners to ensure that as many people as possible have access to vaccines, particularly the most vulnerable in our communities.”

The Cesar Chavez Foundation has hosted dozens of vaccine events at its properties in California and Arizona. As a result of CCF’s efforts, thousands of people have been vaccinated. The Foundation will continue to partner with the UFW Foundation throughout the summer to provide vaccines to communities across California.

CCF previously partnered with the UFW Foundation and the UFW to vaccinate thousands of farm workers in March and April at the historic 40 Acres in Delano, Calif., which is owned and managed by the Cesar Chavez Foundation.

Where: Las Palmas de Sal Gonzales, Sr. – 5070 East Kings Canyon Road Fresno, CA 93727

When:  June 22 from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.

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National Fair Housing Month: An Interview with Chief Operating Officer Manuel Bernal

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In honor of National Fair Housing Month, we sat down with Chavez Foundation’s Chief Operating Officer Manuel Bernal to learn more about the Chavez Foundation’s role in access to fair and affordable housing.

What is fair housing?

It is illegal to discriminate in the sale or rental of housing, including against individuals seeking a mortgage or housing assistance, or in other housing-related activities. The Fair Housing Act prohibits this discrimination because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability.

How are fair housing and affordable housing interconnected? 

The Fair Housing Act applies to everyone, market rate and affordable housing. However, because public funds—at various levels of government—drive the development of affordable housing, the scrutiny placed on affordable housing developers and operators tends to be much more stringent; and tenants have many more sympathetic avenues to listen to their concerns.  In fact, a substantial function for all affordable housing developers and operators is “Compliance.”   While the Compliance function has many sub-functions, a prominent sub-function is compliance to local, state and Federal Fair Housing laws.

How does affordable housing help to strengthen families and communities?

The driving concept behind affordable housing is that for some families the market costs of renting or owning their shelter exceeds their ability to pay—usually taking 33% of their income; an affordability gap exists.  Affordable housing fills that gap by either providing rental or ownership subsidies, or reducing the production and/or operating costs so that families can afford the shelter.  By filling the affordability gap, in various ways, affordable housing strengthens families by (1) not having to have multiple jobs to afford the rent or mortgage, thus increasing family time, (2) allowing them to redirect their remaining resources to other essential items like food and healthcare and (3) allowing them to save money to invest in themselves—like education for themselves and their children, purchasing a home, opening up a business, etc.  

Affordable housing not only strengthens families but strengthens communities as well. Affordable housing fosters diversity in communities by allowing families to live where otherwise they would not be able to afford.  In turn, diversity fosters understanding among people that otherwise would not interact.   Also, affordable housing is an economic development tool for communities.  It brings tax revenue and disposable income spending.  Finally, affordable housing is a long-term asset for communities.  Affordable housing will positively impact communities for the useful life of the development, which tends to be at least 50 years.

What are some long-term solutions to fair and affordable housing?

Fair Housing is an on-going battle against discriminatory practices by those who control housing finance, development and operations. When people’s mindsets are at play, it is hard to imagine that, at a practical level, Fair Housing for all will ever be achieved.  You cannot put a number to that.  Which only means that we as a society must find the means, energy and tools to continue this on-going battle.  

Similarly, resolving affordable housing seems equally daunting.  But since the affordable housing problem is primarily a numbers game (e.g. the gap between the cost of housing and what people can afford to pay), and not a mindset change, at least in theory affordable housing seems easier to solve.  Resources would have to be invested in reducing the cost of housing AND increasing the incomes of families.  You can put a number to that.

What happens when communities don’t have access to fair and affordable housing?

Housing is a basic need.  When adequate housing is not available, the ills that plague societies manifest themselves in varying degrees.  Just look around to identify our socials ills, and many can be traced to the lack of affordable housing.

When thinking of solutions to fair and affordable housing, what role does the Chavez Foundation play?

Housing discrimination and the lack of affordable housing have become gigantic and complex problems.  While it is impossible for CCF to solve these problems on our own, we can make contributions.  Our Housing and Economic Development team have been entrusted with leveraging $5 billion for underserved communities over the next 7 years.  That investment will create thousands of affordable housing units, and thus make a substantial contribution to the supply of affordable housing in this country.  In addition, CCF is committed to operating its affordable housing portfolio through its property management team.  This will ensure consistent compliance on all our units for all our families to all local, state and Federal fair housing laws.  

How does housing inequality connect to Cesar’s legacy?

Fair and affordable housing have a strong connection to Cesar’s legacy.  Fair and affordable housing speaks to:  addressing a basic human need; treating people with respect and dignity; leveling the playing field and giving families a chance at success;  addressing the larger needs of families, in addition to workplace needs; helping communities thrive.

The Cesar Chavez Foundation builds and manages quality, affordable, multi-generational housing with amenities including Si Se Puede Learning Centers and Si Se Puede Senior Centers. Click here to learn more about the Chavez Foundation’s Housing and Economic Development Fund.

Manuel Bernal’s nearly 30-year career in community development began as a Management Analyst for the City of Los Angeles Housing Department underwriting loans with HOME and CDBG funds. He later served as an Underwriter of equity investments at the National Equity Fund and was a co-founder and first Executive Director of the East L.A. Community Corporation. Manuel first joined the Chavez Foundation in 1999 and served until 2011 as Executive Vice President for Housing and Economic Development, and served on Chavez Foundations Board of Directors from 2011 to 2017. Prior to his current position, Manuel was the Director of Multi-family Housing for the City of Los Angeles.

Image: Las Palmas de Sal Gonzales, the Housing and Economic Development Fund’s newest energy efficient property for low income families and seniors in Fresno, Calif.