Healdsburg to buy 23-unit apartment complex to preserve affordable housing for low-income tenants
Healdsburg is acquiring a $5 million apartment complex on Prentice Drive, ensuring the property will remain affordable for its mostly low-income tenants.
The Healdsburg City Council last week unanimously approved the purchase of the 23-unit Monte Vina Apartments, agreeing to chip in $1 million to maintain the below-market rents on the one- and two-bedroom apartments. The city also will provide a $275,000 loan to partner Burbank Housing, allowing the nonprofit to make immediate upgrades to some units at the complex at 1302 Prentice Drive.
To buy and manage the property, Burbank Housing will then apply for a state tax credit to cover the property’s remaining $4 million purchase price.
The purchase agreement concludes months of exclusive negotiations between city officials and the owner’s real estate agent. The city is expected to close on the property in mid-June.
If finalized, it would mark the first time the city has spent funds from Measure S, a tax on hotel visitors approved by voters in 2016 to increase the city’s affordable housing supply, to preserve units for low-income families. The purchase was heralded as a win for the city in its efforts to boost its number of affordable units in Sonoma County’s priciest real estate market.
“In real estate, nothing’s done and there’s no celebrating until we’re done,” said Mayor David Hagele, who works in commercial real estate financing. “With this vote, we definitely step forward with caution, but definitely confidence, and I think that’s big for us.”
For tenant Edith Vargas, the city’s acquisition was a relief.
She and her husband, Jorge Ramirez, 37, feared someone would purchase the property and increase the rent, forcing them to search for another place to live in an already tight housing market.
Before moving into the complex about five years ago, Vargas, a cook, and her husband, a grape picker, rented a room in Windsor from Vargas’ cousin, but they were forced to move when her cousin lost her home in the economic downturn.
When the couple found out their Healdsburg complex was up for sale, Vargas, 37, grew worried she and their two children, Oliver, 8, and Daleyza, 2, may have to move to Oaxaca, Mexico. She said they previously had to uproot their older daughter, Nancy Ramirez, now 19, from the local school system, and doing so again with their younger children was not a choice they wanted to have to make.
“They’ve grown used to Healdsburg,” Vargas said in Spanish. “It’s great that the city is supporting us, that they are helping families that actually need help. It’s going to be a good opportunity us. I’m so happy.”
The council decision comes two months after several Latino families in a low-income Piper Street apartment complex had their leases terminated. The eight-unit complex had been purchased for $2.96 million by a Marin County couple who planned to upgrade the units and start charging market rate. The city and buyers are in negotiations to try to keep some of the other residents in the complex.
In July 2015, a Larkspur investment firm paid $2.9 million for a 21-unit apartment complex next to Monte Vina and evicted the mostly Latino tenants to update the units and charge higher rents.
In both cases, community members and low-income housing advocates called on the city to step in and help the displaced residents — many part of the local wine and hospitality workforce vital to Healdsburg’s economy.