Caritas Homes development to bring more affordable apartments to downtown Santa Rosa

Tenants will be selected next week to fill 33 affordable apartments in downtown Santa Rosa, part of Burbank Housing’s two-phase development that will bring 126 units online amid a chronic housing shortage across much of the North Bay.|

Tenants will be selected next week to fill 33 affordable apartments in downtown Santa Rosa, part of Burbank Housing’s two-phase development that will bring 126 units online amid a chronic housing shortage across much of the North Bay.

The first of two buildings that will make up the new Caritas Homes development is slated to be completed by July 1, said Mark Krug, special projects manager for Burbank Housing, a Santa Rosa-based nonprofit affordable housing developer. Half of the first phase’s residents will be chosen through an April 21 lottery and remaining units will be allocated for those experiencing homelessness.

“This project checks all the boxes: It’s really close to public transportation, it’s downtown close to job opportunities and retail recreation,” Krug said. “It’s a big deal for the community and it’s going to change the look of downtown quite a bit, so, it’s exciting.”

Caritas Homes will be located at 340 and 360 Seventh St., immediately north of the Caritas Center, Catholic Charities’ homelessness resources hub that opened last year. Its intended market is households that earn between 40% and 60% of the area median income, or who have a Sonoma County Housing Choice Voucher or Section 8 voucher.

Caritas Homes will consist of two identical buildings, each with 63 units, with studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments. The first 30 units in each building will be reserved for people experiencing homelessness.

Studio apartments at Caritas Homes will have a maximum monthly rent of $1,040, and can have a household size of one to two people with a total household income between $41,600 and $47,550.

One-bedroom apartments will be leased with a monthly rent of $1,114 for one- to three-person households and a total annual income between $41,600 and $53,500.

Two-bedroom apartments, with a rent limit of $1,337 a month, will be leased to households with two to five people and a total annual income of $47,550 to $64,200.

A secured parking garage will be located on the building’s ground floor with apartments surrounding it, and the lobby and mail room will have paid security when the resident manager is off duty. The second floor will feature an indoor community room with an outside deck.

Between the two buildings will be an outdoor, fenced-off social gathering space with outdoor furniture and a garden area. There will also be an indoor storage space for bicycles next to the garage but accessed through this outdoor space.

The project is being built in two phases, with construction on the first phase started in January 2021. Construction of the second phase will begin in a year or two, Krug said, when additional funds are raised. The first building cost $44 million to build, while the second will require $47 million due to inflation and rising construction costs.

Those currently experiencing homelessness will be selected for a unit at Caritas Housing through the county’s coordinated entry system, which is designed to place the most vulnerable people experiencing homelessness with the best available housing options.

Individuals and families looking for affordable housing can express interest by emailing Burbank Housing or calling the front desk to add their name to an interest list, where a pre-application asking for contact, household and gross monthly income information is collected.

Prospective tenants who meet qualifications will be entered into a lottery — which will take place April 21 — and those selected will move to the next step of information verification.

Annie McNeany, Burbank Housing director of property management, said 99 people are on the interest list for these units and will be mailed applications.

A waiting list for units will be created following the lottery, she said, and is expected to be between three and five years. Voucher holders will not be given priority, she added.

“We have 10,000 people on our wait lists among our communities,” McNeany said Friday. “There is still a massive need for affordable housing, especially in the current economy and the high rental housing costs in Sonoma County.”

Sonoma County behavioral health services will be available for tenants who were experiencing homelessness, along with Catholic Charities continuing to be a service provider and Caritas Homes’ resident services department for all tenants in the space.

There were 2,890 people experiencing homelessness in 2022, a 5% increase from 2020, data from the Sonoma County Count-In-Time report found, with 28% of that population in some kind of shelter situation.

Catholic Charities CEO Jennielynn Holmes said the need for this development was greatly exacerbated by the 2017 Tubbs Fire, which took out 5,000 units of housing in Sonoma County.

“We’re grappling with an intensive housing shortage overall so we knew we needed to model the land we had to answer to homelessness,” she said. “The fact that this vision happened back in 2017 is coming to fruition is a pinch-me moment.”

Catholic Charities purchased the property in 2015. She said the plans at that time were much smaller, with fewer total housing units, until the Tubbs Fire “radically changed the urgency by which we felt we needed to get this project done.”

She said the first phase of Caritas Homes is on the area where the drop-in center — a day center where people experiencing homelessness can use showers, laundry and meet with case workers — and various transition residency programs were before being moved into the now completed Caritas Center.

The second phase will be in the footprint of the former family shelter, also now located inside the new center.

Holmes said when someone, particularly someone experiencing homelessness, moves into housing, the root cause of what brought them to homelessness becomes addressed and the real work on keeping them off the streets can begin.

“We’ve got all of these wraparound services on the same physical footprint of this housing facility that we’re just so excited to model this really rich and intensive support around individuals living in this unit,” Holmes said.

“It’s really exciting for us to see how access to care really plays out when someone’s housing and their needs can continually be met.”

Caritas Homes will provide “very, very dense” housing, Krug said, with around 90 or so units per acre. Not many developments can provide that level of density, he said.

“The whole block is being rebuilt from the ground up... and it’s quite a large change to downtown so we’re excited about that,” Krug said.

“Santa Rosa council members and staff have been talking about how they want to have more density downtown (and we feel) that this is what city council has been asking for.”

You can reach Staff Writer Sara Edwards at 707-521-5487 or sara.edwards@pressdemocrat. com. On Twitter @sedwards380.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:
  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.