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Cannery project moves forward after two Santa Rosa affordable housing developments net $112 million in state loans

Two large affordable housing developments in Santa Rosa have received a total of $112 million in state loans to help build 227 low-income units downtown and near Spring Lake.

Nearly $57 million is going to the long-delayed 129-unit Cannery project at Third Street near historic Railroad Square. The other $55 million was awarded to the 98-unit Mahonia Glen development at Calistoga Road and Highway 12.

The money comes from a $1.75 billion program overseen by the state’s housing department to create thousands of low-income homes. Using federal pandemic stimulus funds, the program aims to finance already planned projects unable to break ground after missing out on extremely competitive affordable housing subsidies.

With the very low-interest, forgivable loans, the John Stewart Co. — the San Francisco-based developer of the Cannery project — aims to begin construction this summer, after over two decades, at the historic former cannery near the SMART train tracks.

“It’s what’s going to get the shovels in the ground and get this long-planned, transit-oriented development underway,” said Jack Gardner, the developer’s president and chief executive.

The complex, which will preserve the historic brick buildings and water tower, should take about a year and a half to build, Gardner said.

The Cannery, which in its current plans will reserve a quarter of its units for homeless people and provide wraparound services, has been championed by a succession of mayors and city officials.

“It seemed probably like a bit of an act of faith at times,” Gardner said.

In addition to not receiving enough federal low-income tax credit subsidies, the project lost key funding following the dissolution of the state’s redevelopment agencies in 2012 in the wake of the Great Recession.

The 100% affordable Mahonia Glen project, meanwhile, is planned for an empty lot across from the Safeway supermarket near Spring Lake. It’s backed by nonprofit developer MidPen Housing in Foster City.

The development is expected to break ground by this summer.

MidPen is also developing the controversial 75-unit Casa Roseland project in Santa Rosa and the 41-unit 414 Petaluma project near downtown.

You can reach Staff Writer Ethan Varian at ethan.varian@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5412. On Twitter @ethanvarian

Ethan Varian

Housing and homelessness, The Press Democrat 

I've lived in California for most of my life, and it's hard for me to remember when the state hasn't been in a housing crisis. Here in Sonoma County, sharply rising housing costs and increasing homelessness are reshaping what was long considered the Bay Area’s “affordable” region. As The Press Democrat’s housing and homelessness reporter, I aim to cover how officials, advocates, developers and residents are reacting to and experiencing the ongoing crisis.

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