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Ventura County

Simi Valley Gives Boost to Affordable Housing

Five projects that will provide 224 units for lower-income families are in the pipeline. A $34-million bond sale will help pay for them.

November 20, 2002|Amanda Covarrubias | Times Staff Writer

Bolstered by a $34-million bond sale, Simi Valley officials are trying to offset skyrocketing housing prices by underwriting the construction of 224 affordable housing units in five projects by 2005.

As other Ventura County cities scramble to house their working poor, young families and entry-level professionals, Simi Valley is tackling the issue head on, officials and housing experts said.

"The city has been on the record about the need to house all its working families and to provide rental and ownership opportunities for people with lower incomes," said Bernardo Perez, a project manager with Cabrillo Economic Development Corp., builder of two Simi Valley projects that will include affordable units.

On Monday night, the Simi Valley City Council endorsed two proposals that would provide 93 apartments for moderate-income residents who earn up to $54,400 for a family of four.

"I think the population has come to realize that when you're talking about affordable housing, you're talking about your policeman, your fireman, your schoolteacher," Mayor Bill Davis said. "People are looking at affordable housing a little bit differently than they did years ago."

Eighty-one affordable units will be available in the 324-unit Parker Ranch apartment complex next to the Metrolink station in central Simi Valley.

The council agreed Monday to issue $34 million in bonds to help finance the $49-million project developed by Essex Property Trust of Palo Alto. The city also is contributing a $3.2-million low-interest loan.

Scheduled to be completed in late 2004, monthly rents on the one- to three-bedroom apartments would range from $708 to $871. The market rate for rental apartments in Simi Valley is $1,049 for a one-bedroom to $1,439 for a three-bedroom. The difference is offset by city subsidies.

"We're very aggressive about it," Dulce Conde-Sierra, a city housing official, said of the program. "Almost anyone who comes to us

The other project endorsed this week is the 12-unit Peppertree apartment complex, an existing property that will be purchased for $1 million by the nonprofit Area Housing Authority of Ventura County and offered to lower-income families.

The complex on east Los Angeles Avenue is the perfect first purchase for the authority in Simi Valley, because it's in good condition and will require little renovation, said Douglas Tapking, authority executive director.

"The needs are crying out more and more, the timing is right, it's a good piece of property and the price was right," Tapking said.

The city was not asked to contribute but may be approached to help with minor renovations, Tapking said.

Also on tap for Simi Valley are 11 single-family homes dedicated to lower-income households in a 26-unit development south of California 118.

The Kuehner Homes development won city approval in October. Construction on the three- and four-bedroom houses should begin early next year, said Perez of the Cabrillo group.

A second project by Cabrillo will provide 34 affordable three- and four-bedroom apartments in a 70-unit complex called Plaza del Sol.

One block east of the Civic Center, the development will offer townhouse-style apartments, a community center and a swimming pool, Perez said. The city is providing a $1.4-million low-interest loan, so nearly half of the Plaza del Sol homes are reserved for lower-income residents.

"To their credit, they stepped up," Perez said of the city. "Typically, cities don't want more than 25% affordable [in a project]. But they saw the benefit."

A final project in the pipeline is a 176-unit senior center that will be considered by the City Council next month. Called Vintage Paseo, the development would be built across Tapo Canyon Road from the Civic Center.

The city will regulate rents on 86 units but virtually all of them will be "affordable," Conde-Sierra said.

"In a period of two months, we will have four complexes approved," Conde Sierra said. "We have been negotiating or discussing these projects for a very long time. Coincidentally, they've all come to fruition at the same time."

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