Pusavat said all county funding earmarked for those projects would come from the authority's reserve account, which until recently had been frozen by various county government restrictions.
For 10 years, the authority had been directing federal funds, originally allocated for local Housing Authority staff expansions, into the reserve account, Pusavat said.
The fund had not been tapped for construction or renovation purposes because of prohibitions against its use for the purchase of property, the financing of projects less than 50 units or extending grants in place of loans. These restrictions were relaxed about eight months ago.
Pusavat said the rule changes were spurred partially by the burgeoning waiting list for affordable housing in Orange County. By last November, he said, the waiting list had grown to an "unmanageable" 15,000 people, the most in recent memory.
That list has since been pared to about 7,000 in a purge of the system and reapplication process. Pusavat said the purge was needed to clean the rolls of people who were no longer in the area or in need of county assistance.
But even with the reduced waiting list and more pojects in the pipeline, "we'll never be able to place them all," he said.
Advocates for the poor said the county's new commitment to low-income housing "is better late than never."
"It's been a desperate situation for a long, long time," said Crystal Simms of the Legal Aid Society of Orange County. "It just hadn't penetrated to the higher levels of county government."
Simms said the reserve fund represented a "staggering amount of money" but still would not be enough to fill the need.
Before the county completes its work, Supervisor Wieder predicted that the projects would probably encounter some opposition from groups opposing location of the housing in their neighborhoods.
Wieder referred to an incident last year in which county officials abandoned plans for a 240-unit low-income facility above a Huntington Beach bus terminal. One of the key reasons for the collapse of that project was neighborhood opposition.
"It's an unfortunate event that often accompanies putting in affordable housing projects," Simms said.
With government resources on the decline, Susan Oakson, executive director of the Orange County Homeless Issues Task Force, said the reserve fund is especially crucial for the county.
"Our concern is that this is a precious resource and that it be used to create the most benefit and go as deeply as possible," she said.
The availability of county funding couldn't be more timely for cities, which can no longer count on drastically reduced state grants to help develop housing for low-income and elderly residents.
Without approval of a $325,000 county contribution, Linda Boone, executive director of the Orange Housing Development Corp., said plans for 22 units in the city of Orange planned for seniors and families "would have been dead."
Boone's project, which will provide 15 apartments for seniors and seven family units at a total cost of $2.9 million, was one of the three approved this week by the Board of Supervisors.
"We went to the county at the very last minute and their help was absolutely critical," Boone said. "The state money is just not there any more. They (county officials) really understand these projects."
Times staff writer Eric Lichtblau contributed to this story.
Housing Funds Found
The Board of Supervisors this week approved plans for county participation in three projects that will provide affordable housing for low-income and elderly residents. The county will provide $2.3 million of the estimated $34.4-million cost. The balance will be funded by public agencies or private developers.
Walnut/Pixley Apartments, Orange
Total cost: $2.9 million
County contribution: $325,000
Affordable units: 15 senior apartments, seven family apartments
Park Stanton Place Senior Apartments, Stanton
Total cost: $22.2 million
County contribution: $1 million
Affordable units: 33
Rose Gardens at Westminster
Total cost: $9.3 million
County contribution: $1 million
Affordable units: 69
Source: Orange County Environmental Management Agency