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October 7, 2011 > A new lease of life

A new lease of life

By Simon Wong, Photo by Simon Wong

Tennyson Gardens, W. Tennyson Road, Hayward, blighted the local neighborhood, harbored criminal activity, was in desperate need of buildings maintenance and unsuitable for young families before Eden Housing partnered with the city's Redevelopment Agency and investors in 2009 to preserve the long-term affordability of the apartments complex and improve residents' quality of life. Hayward Police Department has many stories about what used to happen.

There are 96 affordable rental apartment units serving low-income families in Hayward - 24 one-bedroom units (645 sq. ft.), 48 two-bedroom units (875 sq. ft.), 23 three-bedroom units (1,000 sq. ft.) and one two-bedroom manager's unit.

Renovations, which cost $8.5M, were completed in July 2010 and funded by the City of Hayward Redevelopment Agency (RDA) and US Bank Community Development Corporation. They include upgrades to the laundry equipment, lighting, landscaping, parking lot, fencing, security system, community room and management office.

"At nights and at weekends, it has changed dramatically here. It's very quiet and safe enough for parents and their kids to play outside. The additional fencing and external renovations, parts of the improvements, has made a difference," stated a resident. "Unfortunately, sentiment about the changes varies among some of the longer-term residents."

"Eden Housing does enforce policy and this creates a stir. We hold regular residents' meetings at which we clarify and remind people of the provisions of their lease and the complex. The feedback becomes increasingly positive over time," explained Michael Dismuke, Property Supervisor, Eden Housing.

"When Eden Housing took over the site from the former property owner and managers, we started to put matters right, with the invaluable help of Hayward PD, and create a community. Previously there had been fighting and gun violence. Approximately 30 men, gang members, brawled on the communal lawn on one occasion. Now, such incidents don't happen. The majority of the residents appreciate the difference," said Sandra Lopez who was appointed as Property Manager in February 2011.

According to Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney, Tennyson Gardens' former state brought down the neighborhood but applying the city's renowned Synchronized Multi-Agency Safe Housing (SMASH) Program, which addresses neighborhood blight, removes havens for criminal activity, enforces abatement and restores habitability and desirability, to multi-unit housing has proved effective. Since SMASH was introduced in 2008, the City of Hayward has organized 29 SMASH operations at 13 apartment complexes, two businesses and 14 residences.

It is important to involve the Police Department; representatives attend residents' meetings to build relationships for a better community. The need for all stakeholders to work together is essential. Introduction of the Kids' Breakfast Club to the site, expansion of an existing summer lunch and dinner program and public safety presentations to the child residents are being considered. Remaining improvements include barbecue pits, upgrades as units are vacated, secure and energy-efficient windows and sliding doors.

All residential units are affordable to households earning 30-60 percent of the Alameda County Area Median Income. Prospective tenants should call Sandra Lopez at (510) 887-1323.

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