By Da Lin

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — Alameda County is fighting high housing prices with a unique new program to help people get into a house or apartment.

For years, an eyesore on Willow Street in West Oakland sat abandoned and neglected.

Read Also: Oakland To Turn Vacant Properties Into Affordable Housing

Birton Terry lives across the street from the abandoned house.

“It’s a mess,” Terry said. “People squatting and tagging.”

The city hopes to turn this problem in to a solution.

Michele Byrd with Oakland’s Housing and Community Development said, “Get rid of the blight, but also deal with the housing crisis.”

Oakland sold a house and 25 other tax-defaulted properties to a non-profit, called Hello Housing. Some haven’t paid their taxes as far back as the 1980’s. Most are vacant lots and the others are rundown houses.

The non-profit will remodel the existing houses and build new units on the empty lots to either rent or sell to low-income families.

They must be first time homebuyers and meet the income requirement.

“A school teacher, a city of Oakland worker, a two-income household, maybe a bus driver, hotel worker,” Byrd said,

Twenty-six properties may sound like a drop in the bucket when you think of the Bay Area’s housing crisis, but Oakland says it’s one of the many creative solutions they’re testing out, including buying TuffSheds to house the homeless while city workers try to get them into permanent housing.

“Every unit is priceless,” Byrd said. “It means one more family can stay in Oakland. We don’t see this as the only tool to deal with the housing crisis, but it’s one of the many tools we have in the belt.”

The county finally gets to collect the property taxes, the city gets more affordable units, the families will have a home, and the neighborhood will look nicer.

They say it is a win-win situation.

Terry said, “Sounds like a good deal. Somebody will go in there, might need that place, deserve it. I’m fine with that.”

Some of the houses will have new families in them by next Christmas.

If this pilot program works out well, Oakland will continue to collaborate with non-profits to fix and sell this type of property to low-income families.

Housing prices in the Bay Area remain sky high, with the median price in the Bay Area now $739,000, according to CoreLogic.