Construction moves forward for affordable housing in Sonoma County

[caption id="attachment_55353" align="alignleft" width="341" caption="A rendering of the future 66-unit Logan Place development in Petaluma"][/caption]

SONOMA COUNTY – Sonoma County is set to add a number of new affordable housing units with last Friday’s groundbreaking for Burbank Housing’s 66-unit Logan Place in Petaluma, the latest in a number of developments occurring around the county’s Affordable Housing Week.

The week, which runs through Saturday, is meant to highlight the need for affordable housing in the county and will include the Friday unveiling of the $2.86 million renovation of formerly vacant, 15-bed licensed veterans care facility in Santa Rosa known as Hearn Avenue Veterans Housing.

[caption id="attachment_55354" align="alignright" width="360" caption="A rendering of the future 60-unit Sonoma Gardens project in Santa Rosa"][/caption]

Work is also planned to begin in July on the 60-unit Sonoma Gardens project just outside of Santa Rosa, said Denise Carter, vice president of asset management for the developer, Idaho-based Pacific West Communities.

“We’ve always found that there’s a need. All of our affordable housing properties have waiting lists,” said Sue Castelucci, housing coordinator for the city of Petaluma.

More than half of renters – 53 percent – are estimated to be unable to afford fair market rental rates in Sonoma County, according to the Sonoma County Housing Coalition and the National Low Income Housing Coalition. About 38 percent of households rent in the county, and average monthly rent for two-bedroom housing is $1,225.

Work to address that need has been ongoing.

For instance, plans to build the $27 million Logan Place, a family rental development, began with land purchase discussions in 2006. Funding has included more than $7 million from the city of Petaluma, $4 million in allocated financing from the federal HOME investment partnerships program and previously awarded money from the city’s former redevelopment agency, said Pascal Sisich, director of housing development for Burbank Housing.

Wright Contracting is the general contractor for the project, with BKF Engineers as the civil engineer and Hunt Hale Jones Architects as the designer, he said.

When completed in August 2013, the project, located at1200 Petaluma Boulevard North, will include a mix of studio and multi-bedroom apartments, as well as outdoor and indoor recreation areas. Rent will range from 30 to 60 percent of area median income, or approximately $400 to $710 a month for a one-bedroom unit.

Mr. Sisich said that he expects demand to be high, with the typical development receiving applications from 10 times the prospective tenants than it can host.

“When we tell people that, it really shows how much housing is needed,” he said.

[caption id="attachment_55355" align="alignleft" width="346" caption="The 15-unit Hearn Avenue Veterans Housing development in Santa Rosa"][/caption]

The Hearn Avenue project began with the acquisition of the vacant property by Community Housing Sonoma County and Vietnam Veterans of California in 2007. Codding Construction was the general contractor, and work included new roofing, enhanced common areas, rot repair, accessibility improvements and the development of a “healing garden” and patio.

Funding for the project, on West Hearn Avenue, included a mix of local and federal financing, the largest loan being $1.4 million from the Sonoma County Fund for Housing.

The facility will help to address physical and mental health issues for veterans, with direct supportive services and property management provided by the North Bay Veterans Resource Center. The facility will also help with job placement.

The $11.2 million Sonoma Gardens project, located at 3330 Santa Rosa Ave., is the first urban infill development for Pacific West Communities, a private developer that has built 98 affordable housing projects and many in California.

Financing for the project was originally slated to include $2 million in redevelopment agency funding before agencies across the state were dissolved in February.

“The gap was about $800,000 when redevelopment went away,” Ms. Carter said.

The developer worked closely with the county to close the gap, and subsequent funding included $200,000 in recently awarded HOME financing from Sonoma County, she said.

When completed after approximately one year, Sonoma Gardens will feature a mix of two-story, garden-style apartments and be entirely allocated to tenants making up to 60 percent of area median income. Pacific West Builders, Inc. is the general contractor, an affiliate of Pacific West Communities.

A number of other projects around the county could begin in the near future, hinging on the awarding of federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits that developers said are key to financing affordable housing construction.

Two of those projects recently received funding from the Sonoma County under the HOME program – the 79-unit family rental Crossroads development in unincorporated Santa Rosa and the renovation of the 90-unit Kings Valley Senior Apartments in Cloverdale.

In planning for a decade, the $24 million Crossroads, which received $100,000, could break ground in as little as six months if credits are secured, said John Lowry, executive director of Burbank Housing. Once awarded, developers are able to sell those credits to investors, who receive a return over the course of several years.

“The biggest piece to providing finance is these tax credits,” Mr. Lowry said.

The renovation of Kings Valley, which received $114,000 in HOME financing, has been planned since EAH took over management of the property in September 2010. Planned improvements include accessibility, energy efficiency and a number of interior enhancements that project manager David Egan have an early estimated cost of $5 million to $6 million.

That work also depends on the acquisition of tax credits, a competitive process that can require repeat applications.

“We’re inching our way closer,” Mr. Egan said. “The affordable housing market is heavily dependent on these credits and funds.”

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