Eight Sonoma County housing initiatives were recently awarded $5.5 million in public funding to support more than 200 units sorely needed after the wildfires two months ago destroyed thousands of residences in the region.
Planned for various sites around Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Windsor and the Sonoma Valley, the projects will tap into two sources of county housing funds allocated this month by the Board of Supervisors. Five of the proposals were awarded a combined $4.5 million in loans from the county’s housing fund, and the remaining three received a share of $1 million in tax revenue supervisors had previously earmarked for workforce housing.
County officials originally contemplated spreading the loans across a larger number of projects, but given the housing shortage exacerbated by the October fires, they gave the highest priority to the most complete proposals, according to Margaret Van Vliet, executive director of the Community Development Commission.
“After the fires, we really said we need to not just keep putting bread crumbs on each one,” Van Vliet said. “It’s the same amount of money, but we’re focusing it on the ones that are really the most ready to go. I think the historic pattern had been to dole it out a little bit each year over a period of (successive) years.”
This is the first year the county allowed its annually issued loans from the housing fund to support projects inside city limits, a change supervisors implemented in order to promote infill housing construction in urban areas.
The largest funding approval went to the Altamira apartment complex envisioned in the city of Sonoma. Berkeley-based Satellite Affordable Housing Associates was awarded $2 million in loan funding to support the 48 affordable units it has proposed building at a Broadway site currently owned by the Community Development Commission.
The project received approval of a use permit from Sonoma’s Planning Commission last month, but the City Council is expected to consider an appeal early next year, the city announced last week. If completed according to plan, the Altamira project should be finished in 2020, according to county staff.
The next-largest loan amount will support 40 units proposed to house senior residents in the Boyes Hot Springs area. Foster City-based MidPen Housing requested the $1.5 million for its planned Celestina Garden Apartments, located adjacent to its recently debuted Fetters Apartments, to help make the project more competitive for low-income housing tax credits. The county expects completion of the project in two years.
Supervisors also approved $410,000 in loan funding to support predevelopment costs in Santa Rosa for 21 units Catholic Charities and Burbank Housing are planning by the existing Family Support Center to house mentally ill homeless people, or those at risk of being chronically homeless. Habitat for Humanity, meanwhile, is receiving $400,000 in loan funding to help finance 16 homes for low-income people on Wall Street in Windsor.
And supervisors signed off on a $190,000 loan for the Living Room, a Santa Rosa nonprofit for homeless women and children, to help with its purchase of a two-bedroom house across from its Cleveland Avenue facility.
County officials received requests for another four projects they have not recommended loans for yet, including a veterans’ village in Windsor the board has signaled a willingness to help fund at a later date.