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Affordable Housing in Pricey Cupertino

Assistance for low-income families is out there for those who qualify.

Cupertino's steep housing prices may build a wall that deters low income earners from considering the city as a residential option, but affordable housing can be found in the city, according to West Valley Community Services.

The burst of the nationwide housing bubble that sent housing prices tumbling even in Silicon Valley where housing is still comparatively high—especially in Cupertino, where families often choose to live for the sake of their children's education—presents a challenge for those who want to live here but think they can't afford it.

A two-bedroom apartment at Aviare Apartments rents for $2,300-$2,500 per month, for example. Given that finance experts advise allotting about 30 percent of overall income to housing, that means an annual household income of more than $90,000 is needed to afford that apartment.

However, Aviare sets aside 20 out of its 140 apartments for below-market-rate housing, according to Veronica Ruvalcaba, a representative from the apartment complex who was at last week's Affordable Housing Resource Fair, hosted by West Valley Community Services (WVCS) during Affordable Housing Week.

The resource fair included vendors such as Aviare, Thoits Insurance and PG&E, all armed with information on how to help keep living costs affordable.

Aviare's lowered-rent apartments go for a monthly rent of $900-$1,100 for a one-bedroom and $1,150-$1,350 for a two-bedroom. Eligible applicants must have a household income of less than $64,000 a year.

A list of all available below-market-rate housing in the city is available through WVCS. According to Saron Savoy, program manager of housing services at WVCS, there are more than 100 people on the waiting list.

Priority is given to those already living or working in Cupertino, though anyone can apply, Savoy said.

WVCS itself has 24 below-market units: 12 one-bedrooms for a monthly rent of $875 and 12 two-bedrooms for $1,025, she said.

Besides rentals, there is also a possibility of ownership in below-market-rate housing. Habitat for Humanity will begin building four two-bedroom, single-family homes in Cupertino for low-to-very-low-income families, according to Alessandra Pio di Savoia, a homeownership counselor for the nonprofit who was also at the event.

"For those who meet our guidelines, there are opportunities for home ownership," Savoia said. "We will open up the application process in October. But before that, those interested can already ask for a one-on-one meeting with us to inquire about it."

BMR housing is not for low-income people only. Silicon Valley Independent Living Center (SVILC) helps those with disabilities find affordable housing without an income requirement, according to the center's Frances Merrill.

"We help our clients become independent and stay independent," said Merrill. "We sometimes help seniors get out of nursing homes and get back to communities."

Affordable living goes beyond rent and mortgage, and the event included other organizations such as Santa Clara Family Health Plan, which offered information about health care coverage for those who don't have access to, or are unable to purchase, good health care at an affordable price.

"There shouldn't be children who are uninsured," said Laura L. Watkins of Santa Clara Family Health Plan.

Sacred Heart Community Service's Aimee Nichols explained the nonprofit's assistance with energy bills to attendees.

"We do assessment on energy efficiency and provide free upgrades for eligible families," Nichols said.

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