Santa Monica-based nonprofit Community Corp. of Santa Monica, which develops affordable housing, has been busy since its founding, in 1982. The company now has a portfolio of roughly 1,800 units across approximately 100 projects.
It also has a team of roughly 80 employees.
Tara Barauskas, who joined the company as executive director in 2016, has been working to scale up the firm’s pipeline, expanding beyond just Santa Monica and focusing more on things like affordable senior housing.
She sat down with the Business Journal to discuss the company and developing in Santa Monica.
What is Community Corp. of Santa Monica?
Community Corp. is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1982. Our mission is improving lives and neighborhoods by providing high-quality affordable housing in high-opportunity neighborhoods, neighborhoods that have highly rated schools, high-quality transit, parks, a variety of employment opportunities and so forth.
We feel that having families with children who can live in high-quality neighborhoods have better chances of success later on in life. We have about 1,800 apartments, all affordable, in close to 100 buildings. They are all right now operating in Santa Monica, but we just finished our first building in the city of L.A. We are expanding to serve the entire Westside. We also do all of our own management and maintenance of our buildings, and we have a supportive service program that’s on-site for our residents as well.
How do you pick projects?
We have a specific geographic footprint. The Westside is what we’re looking at, and we look for opportunities based on what’s on the market. We also look to make sure that they are in high-quality neighborhoods with good schools and that we can do at least a good 40 or 50 units, because our rents are very low so we want to make sure we make the buildings operationally successful for the long term.
How do you look at restoring buildings versus ground-up projects?
We’re working on a restoration (project) right now. We try to keep in place what we can. They are much more complicated, to be honest, to do the renovations because there are usually residents living there and we want to take into account what their needs are having lived at the property.
We have our environmental sustainability goals and are trying to make all of our buildings all-electric and pull the gas out. We’re also sensitive to any historic elements and maintain the original feeling of the building.
In terms of new, we are also sensitive to the neighborhoods, and they are all different. On the Westside there is such a variety of neighborhoods. We do community outreach, we talk to the residents and they’re not always happy about affordable housing being next-door to them. It is a process and we have to answer a lot of their questions, which we do, and usually there is some kind of a give and take.
How do you raise the funds for your affordable housing projects?
Our typical model is to use the low-income housing tax credit, which is a competitive tax program that is administered by the state, and we layer that with various local funding sources.
What do the next few years hold for you?
We have a few initiatives we’re working on right now. We’re trying to create more economic opportunities for our residents beyond just affordable housing. We have a small business marketplace that’s going to allow for incubation and small-business ideas in a marketplace concept that will be supportive; there will be classes, education for getting these new entrepreneurs into the space. It’s primarily targeted at lower-income, diverse small-business owners who want an opportunity to start a business, and that’s been quite a big undertaking.