Media & Press


Rick Schroeder: Many Mansions is akin to Bailey Building and Loan

This editorial originally appeared in the Ventura County Star.

Each Christmas season, millions of Americans watch a movie about affordable housing. They think it’s a movie about a would-be angel who helps a man see what life would be like if he had never been born. The man — George Bailey — learns that it really has been a wonderful life and Clarence gets his angel wings.

It’s a feel-good movie, but at its core, this is a movie about affordable housing. George Bailey and his father run the Bailey Building and Loan, which provides loans so middle class people can afford to live in a safe decent home. In the scenes in which George “was never born,” he finds that Bailey Park has been replaced by a place called Pottersville, a series of ramshackle houses not fit for humans. Indeed, because there is no affordable housing, the fabric of the entire community is different. There is crime, alcohol abuse and unemployment.

But with affordable housing, Bedford Falls is a thriving community with jobs, schools, respect for law enforcement and a sense of community pride.

Many Mansions is much like the Bailey Building and Loan. It provides opportunities for hard-working people who do not make a lot of money to live in a decent, safe environment. It gives their children a chance for a stable home so they can attend school, get help with homework, and succeed in their studies so they can earn higher income. Many Mansions projects are a valuable factor in creating the opportunity for middle class lifestyles in communities in Ventura County.

Unfortunately, the notion of affordable housing has a negative connotation in many conversations. A well-run affordable housing developer (and most of them are well-run) is an important community partner.

Let’s be clear: the cost of housing is extremely high in Ventura County. A typical household must earn at least $29.90 an hour to afford an average two-bedroom apartment unit (“Out of Reach: California” — National Low Income Housing Coalition).

Many Mansions means at least these five things to Ventura County:

1. We provide affordable housing. We provide over 1,400 hard working men, women and children with a safe roof over their head and at cost within their income.

2. We change lives. We give people dignity and help them back on their feet. Many of our residents came to us only after a job downsizing. Through our assistance, they get good housing. They get a job. Their kids go to school. Without us, they are on the public dole.

3. We are the community. We were founded by this community. Our board members, staff members and volunteers all live and work in the community.

4. We are good neighbors. Challenge your stereotype of affordable housing and ask our neighbors or the police whether they have any trouble with our residents. The people who live at Many Mansions are grateful for the opportunity and they follow the rules of neighborly behavior.

5. We are important to the local economy. Rather than accept public assistance, our residents work in our community. They spend their money at local business. They create jobs.

We will begin 2016 looking for new opportunities in communities throughout Ventura County. When you see us coming, if you’ve never heard of us before, just give us a chance. We can’t promise Bedford Falls, but we can promise a good neighbor in your town.

Rick Schroeder is president of Many Mansions, an affordable housing developer based in Thousand Oaks.

Bowls bring hope, funds for Thousand Oaks charity

This article originally appeared in the Ventura County Star.

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Over 500 hand-painted bowls were displayed at Many Mansions’ Bowls of Hope fundraiser Sunday at California Lutheran University, where for $35, guests could choose a bowl to take home and eat as much soup, salad, bread and dessert donated by area restaurants.

Heather McLeod, community and public relations coordinator of nonprofit Many Mansions, explained the bowls were painted at bowl parties thrown throughout the year.

Karen Kolosieke, of Westlake Village, Anne Saffell, of Thousand Oaks, and Sharon McDonald, of Agoura Hills, had been to one of those painting parties and were hoping to find the bowls they had painted to take home with them, but couldn’t.

“It felt good that it was gone,” said Kolosieke, who ended up with a bowl that said “imagine,” hope” and “dream.”

The threesome is very involved with the Thousand Oaks-based Many Mansions.

“It is a wonderful charity,” Kolosieke said.

Bowls of Hope is Many Mansions’ only annual fundraiser, which also brings awareness of homelessness and the need for affordable housing in the community. The proceeds fund the children and adult service programs.

Programs for adults help them get back on their feet and services for children include an after-school homework and tutoring club.

The organization also has a teen club, and 10 members volunteered to serve the dessert bar.

As a resident, 12-year-old Caci Hearne said she wanted to give back to the organization.

“They help us with our homework, and they have a summer camp program and lots of cool things like Teen Club and Girl Talk and FAC (Friday Activities Club),” Hearne said.

The Rev. Betty Stapleford, of Thousand Oaks, said that as a retired minister she was pleased she could finally attend the event before all the soup was gone. She had just chosen a bowl at the entrance.

“I just looked at one that spoke to me in some way,” Stapleford said. “I think there is something about this design that looks like a growing thing and it suggests hope to me. I think this will be something very special to me.”

She said she has been a longtime supporter of Many Mansions.

“This is a great organization,” Stapleford said. “I’ve been able to help some folks get into their housing, and it is truly amazing.”

Mary Freed, of Thousand Oaks, was on her second bowl of soup. Her plan was to go down the line for more.

“I started with the red lentil from Ali Babas (Newbury Park) because I actually go to Ali Babas and buy the red lentil soup,” Freed said. “But when it got down to the soupy part, I had the corn chowder guy (from Lazy Dog Cafe) throw in the solid chunks of potato and corn.”

As a past president of the Organic Garden Club, Freed said she put the spring and summer garden in at the Hillcrest Mansions facility.

“It’s time to put in the winter garden,” she said.

After Agoura Hills City Council members Denis Weber and William Koehler served soup, they enjoyed doing some “sampling,” as they put it. Both agreed they enjoyed the chicken tortilla soup from Snapper Jack’s Taco Shack.

Weber said he’d been part of past efforts by Many Mansions and Rick Schroeder, the nonprofit’s executive director, to open more homes for families.

“And he’s been talking to the city council about possibly doing Many Mansions within Agoura Hills, so if you see what he’s done for Thousand Oaks, it’s God’s blessing, I think,” he said.

     Macy’s donates books to Many Mansions kids

In collaboration with the Camarillo Amber’s Light Lions Club, Macy’s donated over 1,000 books to Many Mansions! Current subscribers can view the article and pictures online through the VC Star website.

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Diego Sanchez’s face lit up as Del Hernandez, store manager of Macy’s Thousand Oaks, asked him if he liked to read.

The question came Tuesday at the Many Mansions Shadow Hills homework club. Macy’s provided 1,035 books through the Reading is Fundamental campaign.

The youngsters, ranging in age from 5 to 11, were allowed to choose a book to take home.

Diego, 8, picked a “Star Wars” book.

“I love Star Wars,” he said. “I like the Jedi.”

Hernandez was delighted. He said every Macy’s was allowed to choose a local organization that would benefit from the program.

“Seeing those smiles is what it’s all about,” Hernandez said. “This is awesome to see right here, down the street from our store, how we are impacting children right here in Thousand Oaks.”

Chris Graham, secretary of the Camarillo Amber’s Light Lions Club, said the organization was thrilled to link Macy’s with Many Mansions, which provides affordable housing to low-income families.

“It’s wonderful to help kids have books of their own,” Graham said. “Anytime you can help a child learn to read, the better they will be in this society.”

Rebecca Evans, vice president of services and resources for Many Mansions, concurred.

“These books are going to be used in our homework and tutoring club, and they will get to take one home with them,” Evans said. “We also were able to get copies of topical books, such as books about space and the rain forest, so this summer during our Many Mansions summer camp experience, youth will learn about a topic for a week and at the end of the week, be able to take a book to keep and read again and again.”

Many Mansions’ Heather McLeod, community outreach and public relations coordinator, and Coreen Ellrott, associate director of children services, said they had a blast handpicking every book.

“It was so much fun reminiscing about the books we read as kids and the books my kids read,” McLeod said. “We remembered so many great titles.”

Curious George was one of the characters that crossed generations, and it was a book featuring him that Valeria Casanova, 6, chose, adding that she doesn’t know how to read.

“My brothers will have to read it to me,” she said.

Her 9-year-old brother, Israel, promised he would. He selected a “Star Wars” book for himself.

“I don’t like Curious George much, but I’ll read to her and help her learn how to read,” he said.

The eldest brother, Jesus, 10, picked a “Star Wars” book, as well.

“I’ll help my sister, too,” Jesus said. “I think what they’re doing today is great. It’s nice to meet the people from Macy’s who are giving us the books, and it’s great that they’re letting us have one to take home. That makes me happy.”

At age 5, Jada Riley already knows how to read. She chose the book, “Fancy Nancy and the Delectable Cupcakes.”

“I read this book at school, so I wanted to have it at home,” Jada said.

Evans watched the children and smiled.

“Today means the world to us,” Evans said. “We are so appreciative for the partnership with Macy’s, as well as the Lions Club of Camarillo. These books are going to go a long way in educating our youth and in helping them achieve greater academic attainment and break the cycle of poverty.”

Entering 35th year, Many Mansions in Thousand Oaks looks to private sector for funding

An excellent article was posted in Sunday’s Ventura County Star (link below) about Many Mansions, its office move and direction. Be sure to check out the timeline at the end of the article with pictures of our properties! Read the article on the VC Star’s website.

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Moving just one block away may seem silly.

But the staff at Many Mansions believes leaving a hidden corner on Thousand Oaks Boulevard for a prominent spot on the same street could make a world of difference.

The housing nonprofit recently moved its offices to a new building with its blue logo on display for all drivers getting on or off the freeway at Rancho Road to see.

“The more prominent we are, the better,” said Many Mansions President Rick Schroeder. “There’s still many in our community who don’t know about us.”

That may be hard to believe considering the organization is in its 35th year and boasts 14 affordable housing projects across the county. But the nonprofit is starting a new chapter and it needs the attention of one group in particular — the private sector.

The demise of redevelopment agencies in California has left a rather large hole in an organization that builds and renovates housing for the poor. About a quarter of Many Mansions’ housing development revenue came from the local redevelopment agency.

“Since redevelopment dissolved, it’s been hard to find that substitute,” Schroeder said. “We haven’t quite found a new formula to get projects built.”

One avenue is to partner with a potential developer on Thousand Oaks Boulevard. Four years ago, the city approved a plan that would allow housing to be built for the very first time on a stretch of the thoroughfare between Moorpark Road and Duesenberg Drive.

Schroeder said a potential retail developer may consider building housing as a way to receive tax credits, collect rent and diversify a portfolio. If the units are below market rate, Many Mansions could manage them.

“Retail comes and goes,” Schroeder said. “With housing, there’s always a need.”

Experts say with an aging population, there’s an acute need for senior housing, particularly in Thousand Oaks, where the housing stock is skewed toward single-family homes for the affluent. Thousand Oaks is also an aging community with 28 percent of its residents 55 or older, according to 2010 U.S. Census figures.

In a city of more than 127,000, there are about 1,100 units of housing deemed affordable. Of those, just 250 units are reserved for seniors, said Mark Towne, deputy community development director.

The need to house a growing number of low-income and fixed-income seniors could very well be an issue in the June 2 special election. Thousand Oaks voters are deciding between four candidates to fill a City Council vacancy.

Alyce Klussman, who is organizing a candidates forum for the Vallecito Homeowners Association, said the city has not been realistic when looking at the needs of senior housing. Klussman, who serves on a committee tasked by the City Council to draft a Senior Adult Master Plan, said many residents are aging baby boomers who didn’t save enough for retirement and are still paying a mortgage.

“They’re in a bind as to what kinds of housing is available. Thousand Oaks is not a friendly town for lower and lower-middle income families,” Klussman said. “There was once a great emphasis on open space and single-family homes. But we don’t have a lot of families in the middle income level with disposable income that need those big houses with the big yards.”

When the city incorporated in 1964, it was a bedroom community proud of its open space and proud of its separation from the San Fernando Valley.

“It was a refuge from the maddening life of L.A.,” said Douglas Tapking, whose father John Tapking served on the first City Council. “It was a commuter-oriented population.”

But as the city grew, the housing options did not evolve to keep up with demand.

Tapking, executive director of the Area Housing Authority of Ventura County, said the variety of housing didn’t keep pace because land is simply too pricey in the county.

“We’re no longer simply a bedroom community. People commute into our community to work,” Tapking said. “Our young people and senior citizens are moving away because they can’t afford to be here.”

Many Mansions hopes to change that despite the loss of redevelopment and the growing competitiveness of other state and federal grants.

The group has an eye on city property across from The Oaks mall on Hillcrest Drive. It would be Many Mansions’ first senior housing development. Plans to build 82 affordable units for seniors were scrapped in 2013 when neighbors objected.

A senior project across from the mall would need approval from the city, which has maintained a good relationship with Many Mansions. The city has been a partner in a number of past projects.

There is a possibility the council will eventually resurrect a housing trust fund that has a current balance of $1.7 million.

In 2008, the city set up a trust fund for affordable housing. Sources for the fund include developer fees, donations and money accumulated from legal settlements with developers.

But less than a year after the trust fund was set up, the city waived the developer fees that would go into the fund because of the recession. The council considered bringing back the developer fees in 2010, 2011 and 2012 but decided against it.

“We are now out of the recession,” said Councilwoman Claudia Bill-de la Peña. “We need to start funding that trust fund again.”

That would be good news for Many Mansions. Starting a new chapter means finding creative ways to fund its mission. That new chapter starts with the move to the new office building, which was a much appreciated donation.

Thousand Oaks Boulevard Storage kept the facilities in the back and Many Mansions gets to use the office space facing the street.