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A CDF Loan Seeded 600 Affordable Senior Apartments in California

Updated: Jun 3


Photo credit: Philip Clayton Thompson

A $60,000 forgivable loan from the Cooperative Development Foundation to fund 60 senior housing units is seeding the development of 600 affordable senior apartments in Northern California.

In 2003 the Davis Senior Housing Cooperative (DSHC) was in need of funds to finance predevelopment expenses for Eleanor Roosevelt Circle, a planned senior housing cooperative development for moderate income seniors named in recognition of the first lady's unwavering support of cooperatives.

The vision for ERC came from Margaret Milligan, the founder of DHSC who found that there was limited housing available in Davis for moderate income seniors.

"Margaret wanted to create a cooperative community for moderate income seniors with a cooperative spirit where every resident was a member and owned a share. She wanted a community where there was a lot of sharing and the residents would help each other with meals, transportation, classes and leisure activities." said Bill Powell, President of Delta Senior Housing Communities, Inc in a 2019 interview with 2001 Hall of Fame inductee and cooperative developer David Thompson. In 1998, David and his partner, Luke Watkins had formed Neighborhood Partners, LLC to develop cooperative and mutual housing.


Photo credit: Philip Clayton Thompson

Thanks to the link with Thompson, former NCBA Vice President, Western Region, DSHC and CDF negotiated an agreement that stipulated that if DSHC succeeded with the senior housing cooperative, it would pay CDF principle, interest and a success fee. If DSHC did not succeed the loan would be forgiven. No payment of interest or principle was required until the project was completed.

In 1994, Thompson along with Jerry and Chris Rioux of HCD Services had received a similar $30,000 loan from CDF for the purchase of a mobile home park in Woodland, California where residents bought the 150 space park and turned it into a limited equity housing cooperative.

"Without that $60,000 from CDF, there is no question that we would not have had the funds to move forward with ERC. That $60,000 was the kick starter for our first project, the 60 affordable senior apartments we eventually built at ERC," said Powell.

"For DSHC, it was extremely important that we could borrow the funds and know that if we did not succeed, we would not owe the funds. DSHC had no assets, no collateral and no income. DSHC had no funds at all to pay back the $60,000 loan. No other lender would lend us $60,000 and be willing to lose all those funds if we did not succeed, " Powell continued.

"When we heard that CDF had approved the $60,000 forgivable loan to us, we were overwhelmed by the generosity of the loan CDF had given us. The $60,000 in funds really boosted our spirits. It was like the story of the “Little Engine that Could,” and we had arrived at a place on the journey where we could say, 'I Think We Can.'"

Photo credit: Philip Clayton Thompson

And DHSC did become the Little Engine that Could. Not only was CDF paid back, but today, DHSC has 174 units in two communities with another 44 units breaking ground this September of 2020. Additional land in two other communities has been donated to DSHC that will accommodate an additional 400 units of senior housing.

Unfortunately, the development was not ultimately developed as a cooperative. The ERC development hinged on acquiring a two acre plot of land from the city of Davis. In the end the city's requirement that the site house a range of extremely low to low income residents collided with the project's ability to get funding for a cooperative development. DSHC was forced to abandon its moderate income focus and the cooperative ownership model to become a nonprofit 501(c)(3).

While Margaret Milligan never got to live in her moderate income senior cooperative housing, Powell says her impact at ERC remains. "One of the legacies of Margaret’s thinking is the little Co-op Store that sits in the middle of the ERC Community Building as a central gathering point. The Co-op Store is staffed weekdays by volunteer residents and makes food and other items available to the residents. Community members and local food retailers send their surplus food, fruits, vegetables and bread to the Co-op Store to be given out to residents. We named the Community Room the Margaret Milligan Community Room to commemorate Margaret’s initial leadership of the Davis Senior Housing Cooperative that transformed over time to become Delta Senior Housing Communities, Inc."


"We have also been able to house many local seniors who either were or would be homeless without DSHC. For example, one elderly lady was homeless and living under a bridge in nearby West Sacramento. She was found, rescued and then brought to ERC. Several churches and other groups raised funds to help her by giving her furniture, clothing and other items so that she could live in an apartment of her own at ERC. Some of our present residents were previously living in their car or someone’s garage," said Powell.

Photo credit: Philip Clayton Thompson

Delta has grown from one project at Eleanor Roosevelt Circle to three phases at Heritage Commons in Dixon, two phases at Gracewood in Woodland and two more phases at Bretton Woods in Davis. DSHC are partners with Neighborhood Partners, LLC and The John Stewart Company on all eight projects in Northern California. That $60,000 seed loan from CDF has blossomed into homes for about 700 low income seniors. A video on DHSC's Heritage Commons project in Dixon is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGXWFb2E9_c&feature=youtu.be.

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