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Cotati project ‘absolutely screams’ of affordable housing demand

The red townhouse at Village Walk in Cotati, Thursday April 27, 2017, was put on the market below market rate and salespeople received 160 calls and emails in 48 hours about it's availability. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat) 2017

ROBERT DIGITALE,

Within 48 hours of putting it on the market, the seller’s agents were overwhelmed with over 160 phone and email inquiries.

The deluge of queries wasn’t from hopeful theater-goers chasing a rare “Hamilton” ticket. Rather, prospective home buyers a few weeks ago were seeking the chance to snag one new subsidized townhouse near the SMART train station in Cotati.

After a notice of the two-bedroom, two-bath unit went live on the area’s multiple listing service, the sales agents received so many calls they had to set up a separate phone line to handle them.

“They just got their doors blown off,” said Keith Christopherson, a partner in Synergy Communities by Christopherson, the Santa Rosa-based builder of the Village Walk development off East Cotati Avenue.

The intense interest “absolutely screams of this enormous demand for affordable housing” in Sonoma County, said Randy Waller, broker/owner of Santa Rosa’s W Real Estate, which is overseeing the project’s sales.

The townhouse is one of four below-market-rate homes required by the city to be offered at the 46-unit development. In return for a project’s approval, the builder agrees to sell a certain number of units at the below-market rate. This project includes both townhouses and detached houses, some with granny units. The prices for the market-rate townhouses start in the mid-$400,000s. But Waller said the cost of a subsidized unit could fall well below $250,000, depending on the buyer’s income and household size.

Already the city of Cotati has received 40 applications for the four units, which are being built in phases, said Community Development Director Vicki Parker. Village Walk is the city’s first project since the housing downturn where a builder has offered units at below the market rate.

To be eligible, a family of four may earn no more than $41,300 a year, she said.

Cotati now is working with Village Walk representatives to determine which applicants have the necessary down payment and the financial means to qualify for a mortgage, Parker said. The city has kept track of the date and time it received each application, and it will give preference based on that order as it works through the list.

“The first four that qualify get the units,” she said.