Two Northern California nonprofit affordable housing developers are joining forces.

Satellite Housing and Affordable Housing Associates (AHA), both based in Berkeley, expect to merge their operations this year, with the goal of launching the new Satellite Affordable Housing Associates (SAHA) organization at the start of next year.

“Our vision is to bring 65 years of combined experience and innovation to a rapidly changing environment with an organization that has robust financial strength and a deep pool of skilled staff that is well resourced and well experienced to thrive in the future,” said Susan Friedland, executive director of AHA, who will lead the new organization.

The combined firm will have 2,700 units in 56 developments, a pipeline of 18 projects, and 170 employees. SAHA will have a presence in eight counties.

The merger is an opportunity to achieve economies of scale in portfolio management, become more competitive in acquiring deals, and bring together complimentary resources to be a more diverse and stronger organization, said Dori Kojima, acting executive director of Satellite Housing.

For example, AHA has strong experience in operating low-income housing tax credit properties, while Satellite has a track record of working with the federal Sec. 202 elderly housing program and the Sec. 811 program for people with disabilities.

Together, they will operate housing that serves a diverse population of residents, including frail seniors, low-income families, youth transitioning out of foster care, and others with special needs.

The union comes at a time when affordable housing developers are facing a difficult financial climate marked by shrinking resources. In California, that includes the recent elimination of local redevelopment agencies, which provided significant funding for housing projects.

Friedland stressed that the merger is a “forward-thinking decision rather than a reactive one.”

The nonprofits’ financial and city partners have all been very positive and see the merger as an important industry model for how two healthy organizations can combine and adapt, she said.

In recent weeks, Satellite and AHA were each awarded a new development project, adding to their pipelines.

Satellite began looking at options when former executive director Ryan Chao left to join the Annie E. Casey Foundation, according to Kojima.

During an executive search, Friedland emerged as a leading candidate. She then helped open the possibility of blending the firms. Extensive talks were then held by the board of directors of both nonprofits.

The merger will create a stronger organization that is poised to thrive in the future, Friedland said.