Marin nonprofit homebuilder plans to cease operations
A North Bay nonprofit housing developer that has built over 4,000 homes for nearly 10,000 residents over the past four decades is winding down operations.
Novato-based Northbay Family Homes cited rising costs of construction and challenges in raising project funds for the decision, announced Tuesday Feb. 16. The organization’s last project was a 100-unit development envisioned for near the downtown Petaluma train station.
“We decided early last year to quit the project, because the cost estimates were indicating that even assuming that we could get all the approvals the cost will be going farther than the estimated cost, once you got to the actual construction stage,” former President and CEO Clark Blasdell told the Business Journal.
The estimated cost of the Petaluma project ballooned to $75 million ($750,000 a unit) from $25 million when it was first conceived several years before. The organization’s announcement said the board, also made up of Charlie Carson, Kristie Wheeler and Paul Simmons, wanted to “leave those kinds of projects to others with more resources (staff and capital).”
Among the nonprofit homebuilders active in the North Bay are Burbank Housing, Eden Housing, Bridge Housing and Mid-Pen Housing. Burbank has a staff of 49 and sometimes assembles as many as dozens of funding sources for a project, the Santa Rosa-based organization has told the Business Journal.
The last project Northbay Family Homes built was the last of 700 low-income-family units built on the former Hamilton Air Force Base in Novato. Completed 10 years ago, the last two endeavors there were the 77-unit, 10-acre Creekside project and the 220-unit, 20-acre Bay Vista complex.
“We kept trying to find projects, and eventually we just ended up selling land that we acquired from different sources to other builders,” said Blasdell, 77, whose last day on the job was Dec. 31, 2020.
One such project he pointed to is a 8.72-acre site in the Bahia bayfront area of Novato. Originally planned to have 50-150 senior apartments and subject to an international design competition, the property later was deemed suitable for less than one home per acre. Ryder Homes purchased the property and is building nine $1.2 million-plus homes in the project, called Bahia Heights.
Since the organization was started in 1978, Northbay Family Homes undertook 40 projects but had considered roughly 400, Blasdell said. Total project investments have been $154 million.
"They have also been leaders in advocating legislative rules to provide affordable housing that is so critical to our economy,” Marin County Supervisor Judy Arnold said in the announcement.
Jeff Quackenbush covers wine, construction and real estate. Before the Business Journal, he wrote for Bay City News Service in San Francisco. He has a degree from Walla Walla University. Reach him at email@example.com or 707-521-4256.