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Healthcare giant Kaiser buys Oakland building for affordable housing

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Company promises nine-figure housing investment in hometown

A Kaiser Permanente building in Oakland. Photo by Cool Caesar

The Oakland-based healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente announced a surprise entry into the housing sector Wednesday, a gesture that the company frames as a health-related move by way of cutting back on housing insecurity.

According to a company announcement, “an approximate $5.2 million has been committed to acquire a 41-unit housing complex in East Oakland, near Kaiser Permanente’s national headquarters” for affordable housing purposes.

Kaiser identifies the building as the Kensington Gardens Apartments on 26th Avenue, a circa-1928 building that previously sold in 2015 for $4.15 million.

In the past, units at Kensington Gardens started at $725 for studios and went up to $950/month for a two bedroom apartment.

Kaiser says it’s working along with the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation and housing non-profit Enterprise Community Partners on the endeavor, which also includes “a $100 million loan fund to create and preserve multifamily rental homes for low-income residents throughout Kaiser Permanente’s service areas,” half of it from Kaiser and half from Enterprise.

“The health and wellness of Oakland is tied to housing in Oakland,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, sentiments that Kaiser CEO Bernard Tyson echoed.

This is not the healthcare company’s first foray into housing issues; last year the company put $200 million into a program designed to prevent eviction and homelessness. “Affordable housing will be a significant focus of Kaiser Permanente’s impact investing,” Tyson said at the time.

1900 26th Avenue.

“We know that differences in health are striking in communities with poor social determinants of health such as unstable housing, low income and unsafe neighborhoods,” Richard Isaacs, the CEO and director of the company’s related Permanente Medical Group.

In 2018, a study in the medical journal Pediatrics found that “when families don’t have stable housing, their risk of struggling with poor health outcomes and material hardships, such as food insecurity, increases,” based on a survey of 22,000 families.

A 2006 study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine notes that “housing instability and food insecurity describe less severe problems” than homelessness, both “were independently associated with having barriers to health care and increased use of acute-care services.”

Kaiser is Oakland’s largest private employer. In 2017, the company reported $3.8 billion in profits.