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East Bay Neighbors Wary Of Habitat For Humanity Plan To Build Seven Townhomes On Single Lot

PLEASANT HILL (KPIX) - Habitat for Humanity is getting a piece of property in the East Bay for a bargain price, but neighbors are concerned the development plans may be a bit too ambitious.

For decades, Habitat For Humanity has used the "sweat equity" of teams of volunteers to build affordable homes for those who cannot afford one themselves.

"Those tenets of our mission have not changed but WHAT we're building certainly has," said Habitat For Humanity President and CEO, Janice Jensen. "We build far more multi-family housing, high-density now, because we have to."

And that's what they want to do on a vacant lot on Cleaveland Road, in Pleasant Hill. The city just agreed to sell the land to Habitat for the grand total of $10. The organization says it would like to build seven townhomes there, even though the property is only ¼ acre in size.

Chad Fite, who lives across the street, has his doubts.

"I don't know how far you're going to stack them, presumably not more than three stories," Fite said. "It's not going to work, at least, not so well for the tenants."

Habitat says nothing has been decided but they did submit concept drawings to the city when making their pitch. They show three-story buildings separated by just a few inches.

Megan DeVries, who lives right next to the land, says it took her 15 years to be able to afford her modest two-bedroom home and she doesn't relish the idea of seven townhouses jammed onto the same size lot and towering over her backyard.

"Feels like it sorta takes the 'humane' out of Habitat For Humanity," DeVries said. "I mean, seven families living on top of each other in an area that 50 years ago was designed for a single family."

She says she doesn't object to affordable housing and would even volunteer if it was a duplex or a four-plex planned for the lot.

But Habitat's President says the reality is, the only way to be affordable is to go high-density. She says the days of building single family homes for poor people are pretty much over.

"No, just economically it doesn't pencil out that way anymore," Jensen said. "So, we have to utilize our land, every inch of it, to the best of our ability."

The city did get a couple of higher bids from for-profit developers but they wanted to build market rate housing there. And because the land was purchased with re-development funds it could only be used for affordable housing.

However, if you're searching for a place to live, don't get your hopes up on this one. Habitat's President says it could take up to two years just to get through the government approval process.

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