New downtown co-op to open this month

The Solar Community Housing Association, a Davis-based nonprofit, is seeking applicants for a new housing co-op being built on the corner of Third and J Street.

The Solar Community Housing Association, a Davis-based nonprofit, is seeking applicants for a new housing co-op being built on the corner of Third and J Street.

The organization is refurbishing the two vintage homes that were moved from B Street in August, which will house around eight people. Once all are selected, the residents will name the co-op.

SCHA is leasing the land from the city of Davis for one dollar a year for 60 years, renewable for up to 90 years. The houses are being renovated to meet LEED certification, internationally recognized standards for environmentally friendly building. The project and resulting co-op will be funded and managed solely by SCHA.

Students and/or low-income individuals are encouraged to apply. SCHA hopes to house residents that earn less than 80 percent of the average median income for Davis, which is $40,600. Those without prior experience in cooperative housing are especially welcome. Project manager Ben Pearl said the average room costs $343.

Two rooms are available on April 1 and applicants will be selected this month. They are currently looking for about two more residents to fill these rooms. The application is ongoing.

In addition to housing, the project has provided a hands-on opportunity for community members interested in construction.

There are 25 UC Davis engineering students working as interns for the project, and there were 60 during fall quarter. Interns oversee the construction site, frame the houses, work on interior walls and structure, paint and build the roof.

“We hope that the SCHA project will serve as an educational model for collaboration between students and skilled contractors in the upcoming maintenance and repair of the Domes and Tri-Coops on campus,” Pearl said. “We’re really looking for people who seem community minded.”

Junior anthropology major Morgan Anderson first became involved with the project in the beginning of January.

“I’ve wanted to be part of a co-op since I first came to Davis, so when I came across news about this one being built I applied right away,” Anderson said. “Until construction is completed on the co-op, our group meets weekly to discuss house plans and updates. I already feel very integrated into the little community we’re building.”

“There is a real sense of a collective consciousness and an encouraging atmosphere for discussion. It is inspiring to be in a community of environmental conscientiousness where everyone is eager to cooperate and live in harmony.”

Brian Barbier Remodeling, a remodeling company based in Davis, is handling the remodeling of the houses. Bill Thomas works for the company and previously lived in the Sunwise Co-ops, also owned by SCHA, until 2004.

“I was an inactive proponent of the project until the houses actually arrived and I began working on the tiling, electric work and carpentry of the houses,” Thomas said. “Even though there are a lot of volunteers that need training on the job, there is still a lot that can be done by unskilled workers.”

Elisabetta Lambertini, a member of the SCHA Board of Directors, said she is really happy the co-op construction is becoming a community project and that one of the benefits of living there is the flexibility of the leases.

“Though leases can last up to a year, we encourage people to stay longer,” Lambertini said. “You can take in the house and culture when there’s less turnover.”

ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached city@theaggie.org