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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, August 19, 2013, 7:00 am

First Northern secures $1.5 million affordable housing grant

Largest-ever FHLB grant for Sacramento region

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    DIXON — A recently opened, 60-unit affordable senior housing development in Dixon could be on the path of doubling its size in the coming years, after Dixon-based First Northern Bank secured a new round of project funding described as the largest Federal Home Loan Bank affordable housing grant in the history of the greater Sacramento Area.

    The first phase of the Heritage Commons project opened in July.

    The first phase of the Heritage Commons project opened in July. (photo credit: Neighborhood Partners)

    The $1.5 million grant is the first piece of funding for the proposed expansion of Heritage Commons, and follows a $1 million grant that the First Northern previously secured to help fund the first phase of the project, according to the bank and the project developer, Davis-based Neighborhood Partners. It is among the largest of 26 grants awarded from the Federal Loan Bank of San Francisco this year.

    The project’s first phase was opened in July, taking a number of cues from a supportive housing development that Neighborhood Partners constructed in Davis, Eleanor Roosevelt Circle, Mr. Thompson said. Units can be adapted to serve residents with different degrees of mobility, and common areas are designed to allow easy access to the handicapped.

    Davis Senior Housing Communities, Inc. is the nonprofit overseeing services provided at the development, with programs offered by agencies like the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

    “Part of what we like doing is building amenities for services on-site,” Mr. Thompson said, describing the five-acre development as a “senior living campus.”

    That first phase was built at a cost of around $12.7 million, with a funding mix of 13 private and public sources that included the city’s former redevelopment agency, according to planning documents from the city of Dixon. The projected cost of the second phase is expected to be known closer to the anticipated onset of bidding in two years, Mr. Thompson said.

    Davis’s Jim Zanetto was the architect for the first phase, and Sacramento-area Brown Construction was general contractor. Neighborhood Partners also worked with the John Stewart Company in San Francisco for the project, and developer Brookfield Homes donated the site as part of the affordable housing obligations connected to a nearby single family development.

    Mr. Thompson called the recent grant a significant first step towards construction of the second phase, highlighting current funding challenges for affordable housing development that included the loss of redevelopment dollars throughout the state.

    “No mechanism has yet been shown to replace that,” he said.

    The grant is the latest in nearly $5.3 million in FHLB grants that First Northern has secured since 2006, according to the bank. Launched in 1990, the grants are available by application for FHLB member banks and are meant to provide funding for affordable housing construction while helping members to satisfy their obligations under the Community Reinvestment Act.

    “We have worked on a number of these over the years,” said Louise Walker, president and chief executive of First Northern. “It’s competitive.”

    There were 25 other banks that secured the annual grant funding from the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco this year. Elsewhere in the North Bay, the FHLB awarded $560,000 to Pacific Western Bank for a proposed 56-unit project in Calistoga, Calistoga Family Apartments. Union Bank secured $1 million to help fund extensive renovations to the 120-unit Chelsea Gardens project in Santa Rosa, and Bank of the West obtained $880,000 for a proposed 20-unit expansion of the 65-unit Christian Help Center in Vallejo.

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