Oakland families move into affordable homes in time for holidays

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- It's going to be a very merry Christmas for some families this year, thanks to the gift of housing.

In this case, the gift comes in the form of a new apartment complex devoted to those who otherwise might be out on the street.

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It's part of the "Home for the Holidays" initiative launched in Oakland.

"I like this place. 400 percent!" said 6-year-old Isaac Allen as he and his 5-year-old brother, Elijah, tried out the new play structure at the Casa Arebella apartments in Oakland's Fruitvale District.

As he watches his two young sons check out the play structure, Demetrius Allen knows this Christmas will mark a new beginning for his young family, the first in a home of their own.

"We had a place to stay, but we were just barely scraping by. I mean barely, pinching pennies," said Allen.

The Allens are among the first residents to move into Casa Arabella near the Fruitvale BART Station in Oakland.

Cierra Surrell will share a two bedroom with her mother and 12-year-old daughter. "It's been difficult, really difficult," said Surrell, who works full time at a West Oakland tofu plant. "Really hard, working... still not being able to afford a place."

"This will be a diverse mixed income community that represents the full range of our community," explained Joshua Simon, executive director of the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation. "From veterans, to families, to formerly homeless to workers who work in offices throughout the area."

The rents here will vary from apartment to apartment, but in no case will the annual amount charged exceed 30% of the residents' annual income. So a family with an annual income of $60,000 would not pay more than $1,500 per month.

Vietnam veteran Jeffrey Ryan told us he became homeless after spending all his savings caring for an ill brother.

"I'm moving from a transitional housing place to my own private place," said the 71-year-old Ryan. "Amazing! What can I say?"

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