Community Corporation of Santa Monica (Community Corp) is a nonprofit organization that restores, builds, and manages affordable housing for people of modest means. Founded in 1982, the organization has built and rehabilitated over 2,000 affordable homes in Santa Monica and additional areas in western Los Angeles County. Last year, Community Corp celebrated 40 years of improving lives and neighborhoods, and the organization continues to evolve and expand its mission to provide affordable housing to the most expensive parts of the western areas of Los Angeles County. Four core values – inclusiveness, sustainability, opportunity, and community – inform every aspect of Community Corp’s work. In 2022, Community Corp exemplified its commitment to these values by breaking ground on an unprecedented affordable housing development, showing remarkable leadership on environmental sustainability, and partnering in the movement for racial justice in Santa Monica.
“At Community Corp, we believe that equity and sustainability go hand in hand,” said Tara Barauskas, executive director of Community Corp. “We are dedicated to creating a just and equitable future for our residents, and we are proud to be leading the way in providing affordable housing, advancing racial equity, and promoting environmental sustainability. By partnering with local organizations and elected leaders we are able to deliver meaningful solutions to the housing and homelessness crisis, and we strive to create a community where everyone has an opportunity to thrive.”
Community Corp broke ground on Red Tail Crossing, the first-ever entirely affordable housing development in Westchester, in December 2022. Westchester is a gentrifying community near Los Angeles International Airport with a growing demand for affordable housing. Community Corp took initial steps to meet this demand by purchasing a site for development, 8333 Airport Boulevard. The land, however, came with a racially motivated restrictive covenant from the 1940s that prohibited multifamily housing on the site.
To enable the project to move forward, Community Corp advocated for systemic change that would remove racist barriers to housing development not only at the site of the project but across the entire state. The organization worked with former Assemblymember Richard Bloom to author and introduce a bill, “AB 721,” that prevents covenant density restrictions from blocking affordable housing projects. With support from co-sponsors Public Counsel and Community Corp, the bill passed the California state legislature in June 2021. The passage of AB 721 is an important step towards dismantling racist provisions in California state law that carry on the legacy of housing discrimination and segregation, perpetuate the state’s shortage of affordable housing, and place people of color at disproportionate risk of housing instability and homelessness.
Red Tail Crossing is the first affordable housing development to apply AB 721, and at least two other projects are already moving forward thanks to the law. In a region facing a severe housing and homelessness crisis, Red Tail Crossing will serve people with the greatest needs. The development will provide 102 affordable homes, of which 40 will be designated for formerly unhoused individuals. Construction is expected to be completed in 2024, and tenants will be selected via lottery.
Community Corp’s commitment to advancing racial equity is not limited to its work enacting AB 721 and building Red Tail Crossing. The organization partners with Santa Monica’s Committee for Racial Justice on housing justice programs and initiatives that address more than a century of harms to the Black community in Santa Monica. For example, the Santa Monica City Council issued a Black Apology in November 2022, which details the city’s history of racist policies intended to exclude people of color and commits to rectifying the ongoing impact of discrimination. Community Corp was part of the group that collaborated to bring the Apology forward and will work with stakeholders to create a meaningful action plan following the release of the Apology.
As the city’s largest affordable housing provider, Community Corp plays an important role in implementing new policies and investments that seek to remedy the harms of systemic racism and enable Santa Monica’s communities of color to thrive. One such policy is the “Right to Return” policy. This policy, issued in 2022 by the City of Santa Monica, allows people – most of them members of BIPOC households – who were displaced due to the creation of the “10” freeway and construction in the Belmar Triangle area to be placed at the top of the affordable housing waiting list. Community Corp is already housing some households as a result of the policy.
In addition, Community Corp is partnering with BIPOC-led organizations on a small business incubator, 1819 Marketplace, that will help entrepreneurs of color launch small businesses. The idea for the incubator emerged from conversations with stakeholders from the Pico neighborhood, the most socioeconomically and culturally diverse part of Santa Monica, who informed Community Corp of the dire need for affordable business space in the increasingly affluent and – for many – unaffordable city. The incubator businesses will enjoy a supportive environment with training opportunities and affordable business space to launch new ideas that can grow into successful enterprises. The marketplace, which is scheduled to open in the early fall of 2023, represents Community Corp’s attempt to expand how it promotes economic stability for disadvantaged groups beyond four walls.
Community Corp also places a strong focus on environmental sustainability to promote residents’ well-being and mitigate climate change. Red Tail Crossing will be the first building in Westchester to receive a CORE certification from the Living Future Institute, with standards for green buildings that far exceed those of LEED, for creating regenerative buildings that are designed with residents’ wellness in mind. Red Tail Crossing will be all-electric and will include Energy Star appliances, electric vehicle charging and car share stations, and solar panels. Community Corp partners with groups such as Climate Action Santa Monica to strategize about how to bring all-electric power, composting, and other sustainability features to low-income residents and the community. What’s more, Community Corp is also working on a roadmap to decarbonize all buildings in its portfolio by 2030.
For more information about Community Corp, visit: https://communitycorp.org/