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HUNTINGTON PARK : Apartments to Blend Housing, Homework

January 16, 1994|MARY HELEN BERG

When potential tenants lease a unit at the Casa Rita Apartments, even children will need to sign on the dotted line.

To qualify to live in the 103-unit building, tenants will need to meet income restrictions and children must agree to attend school, hand in their homework and join an after-school program sponsored at the building.

The rationale for having all family members sign the agreement is to give children a sense of responsibility and to strengthen cooperation within the family, said developer Dan Hunter.

"(The agreement) is a tremendous motivator for kids who live in the building and for parents to help make sure their kids do well," said Hunter, president of Dana Point-based Rita Partners.

The unusual lease agreement is a building block for Educational Excellence for Children with Environmental Limitations (EEXCEL), a nonprofit organization that is combining academics with affordable housing projects at four other sites in Los Angeles. Hunter, with ex-partner Kent Salveson, developed the 46-unit prototype, Academy Hall, now operating at 12010 S. Vermont in Los Angeles. Salveson is developing the three other EEXCEL sites.

Casa Rita, the largest of the sites, will offer an after-school tutoring program in the apartment building's 2,500-square-foot education room and hire an education coordinator who will contact teachers weekly to check on students' academic progress.

Students who graduate from the EEXCEL program and meet minimum entrance requirements will be eligible for a four-year scholarship to USC, Hunter said.

"Our first and main objective is to make sure the kids have every opportunity to do well in school," Hunter said.

The $12-million complex of two- and three-bedroom apartments to be built at Rita and Seville avenues and the EEXCEL program are funded with the help of federal tax credits, tax-exempt bonds and $5 million from the Century Freeway Housing Project. Monthly rents will range from $507 to $615 for a two-bedroom unit and $635 to $730 for three bedrooms. The units should be ready for occupancy by June, 1995. Groundbreaking is scheduled in April.

The project has been met with great enthusiasm by city officials.

"We thought it was excellent and addressed what's important for the people in our community as well as economic development," said Community Development Director Jack Wong.

Casa Rita is one of three affordable housing projects under construction in the city. Two hundred units of senior housing are planned on Rugby Avenue, and a 128-unit first-time home-buyer condominium project that will include an on-site child care facility is scheduled to break ground at Rita and Saturn avenues within a month.

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