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Commentary

Mary Stompe has been executive director for PEP Housing for nearly 15 years. She is an advocate for low-income seniors and serves on the Leading Age California board of directors as vice president and serves on the housing and public-policy cabinets.

PEP Housing has been building and managing affordable senior and veterans housing in Sonoma County for more than 40 years. Founded by a group of community leaders and churches, PEP Housing started as an all-volunteer organization.

Forty years later, PEP owns 17 properties with three more projects in predevelopment, housing more than 500 seniors and veterans in Marin, Sonoma, Butte and Mendocino counties.

What makes PEP Housing unique from other affordable housing developers, we only build and manage affordable senior housing. In all but one property, our seniors are 62 and older.

PEP is working on three projects, two in Sonoma County and one in Solano County. Both projects were designed by Robert Hayes from Sausalito. The Petaluma project will be 54-units serving low-income seniors and veterans and include the demolition of PEP’s current headquarters. We’ve found it difficult to find office space in Sonoma County to meet our needs. After a three-year exhaustive search, we’ve decided to lease property in Petaluma.

This was our most difficult project to build in Petaluma. PEP has been developing projects in Petaluma for four decades, but the city decided to use a RFP process for the first time for an affordable housing project despite the fact that this project was purchased years earlier for an affordable senior housing project.

There was a desire on the part of the city to instead develop the property as family housing. Once we were awarded the project by the Petaluma City Council, our development and disposition agreement took almost another year. Thankfully we now have a fully approved project and are looking for funding. The fires have pushed construction costs up making it difficult to fund affordable senior housing.

Despite all the funding passed last year at the state level, much of it is allocated to the homeless and specials needs and seniors continue to be overlooked. We recently learned that the state feels that it has met the housing needs of seniors, citing a figure of 14 percent of total population, substantially below the real number.

Using 2010 demographics, they missed the mark on that by not looking at 2016 demographics where seniors 60 and older equal 19.16 percent of the total population in California and seniors 55 and older are 25.57 percent of the population. Boomers have reached retirement age, and many don’t have savings. Our waiting lists are now more than five years and growing.

The project in Petaluma will include 53 one-bedroom units and a two-bedroom manager’s unit with a wellness center, community room, walking path, Wi-Fi and much more. As our conditions of approval, we are extending the river path adjacent to our property to connect to the neighbor’s path along the Petaluma River.

This is PEP’s first project to add a wellness center, allowing us to bring practitioners to the site to see PEP Housing residents that may have difficulty getting to a doctor’s appointment. The community room will have stunning views from the viewing patio of the Petaluma River and the walking path along the river is a quick walk from the community room.

In Vacaville, we will be purchasing the lot from the city of Vacaville and building 60 units of senior and veterans housing. Based on Federal Emergency Management Agency requirements, we are having to raise the entire project by 3 feet, requiring a substantial investment in dirt. This project has a dog run, community room, wellness center, exercise room, computer room, garden beds and an activity room that we are hoping will be used for resident activities, woodworking, etc.

Commentary

Mary Stompe has been executive director for PEP Housing for nearly 15 years. She is an advocate for low-income seniors and serves on the Leading Age California board of directors as vice president and serves on the housing and public-policy cabinets.

PEP immediately started helping with fire survivors during the Tubbs Fire by collecting and distributing new items, gift cards and cash. More importantly we tried to move forward several projects.

We landed on a building owned by the county, the old Valley of the Moon Children’s home that has been sitting vacant for over a decade. The property has mature landscaping, including large trees with a park-like feeling, and we will be adding garden boxes and a dog run. We will be rehabbing the project and providing housing (efficiency units) to 21 fire survivors and homeless seniors and a resident manager.

The generous support of Kaiser Permanente provided us with a $1 million grant to help fund this $4 million rehab.

We look forward to many more years of building and managing affordable senior and veterans housing in Sonoma County and beyond.