If we’re lucky, the City Council on Thursday, December 6th, will give Fresnans a lesson in how government builds low-income housing.
In a nutshell, it’s done with a ton of money.
At issue is Annadale Commons Apartments, a proposed 40-unit affordable senior rental housing project at Annadale and Elm avenues in Southwest Fresno.
The plan is to build 32 apartments of 760 square feet each (1 bedroom/1 bath) and 8 apartments of 1,011 square feet each (2 bedrooms/1 bath). One of the larger apartments would be reserved for an on-site property manager. The project includes a community building.
Cost: $14.14 million.
As the staff report notes, that is $353,497 per housing unit.
According to Zillow.com, the median home value in Fresno is $235,000. The median price of homes currently listed in Fresno is $279,595. The median price of homes that sold is $241,500.
The median price per square foot in Fresno is $162, according to Zillow. By my reckoning, the cost of Annadale Commons’ 40 units is in the $400 per square foot range.
My wife and I live in a 2,100-squre-foot house on a lot of more than 10,000 square feet located next to Fig Garden Village. We figure our home’s value is in the $350,000 neighborhood.
The Annadale Commons units would be reserved for seniors with an income between 30% and 60% of area median income. Construction is scheduled to begin in March 2019, with full occupancy to occur by May 2020.
The project has a number of funding streams. Among them is the City of Fresno’s HOME Program. If I recall correctly, that’s federal housing funds passed through City Hall. If I read the staff report correctly, the council will be asked to approve a total of nearly $2.57 million in low-interest loans for the project.
The city’s Housing Successor Agency is involved in the financing as well. The biggest chunk of the $14.14 million would come from low-income housing tax credits ($6.8 million).
Self-Help Enterprises, a city-certified Community Housing Development Organization, is the primary developer. As the staff report makes clear, Self-Help Enterprises is an experienced and successful developer of affordable housing. I would suggest no one can take issue with Self-Help Enterprises being in charge.
And the project is much more than just a bunch of rather small residential units clustered around a clubroom. The project calls for nearby bike lanes and sidewalk improvements. Self-Help Enterprises will team with various partners to provide adult educational classes and health/wellness classes. Each unit will have a gas stove/oven, a dishwasher, a refrigerator and central heating/air conditioning.
Finally, and most important of all, no one should ever begrudge quality housing for the disadvantaged, whatever their age. Safe and livable shelter for all is something doable in the 21stcentury.
But $350,000 per unit, most of them 760 square feet in size? Something’s going on here, and it’s definitely within the council’s policy-making responsibilities should it decide on Thursday to enlighten the taxpaying public.
Past councils have tried to do as much, for this is not the first affordable housing project to come across the dais with eye-popping cost estimates. Annadale Commons, as with those earlier projects, will be required to use labor paid the prevailing wage. That means higher wages. And, as with those earlier projects, the units at Annadale Commons will come with amenities (built-ins, appliances, etc.) that are both necessary and affirm the tenants’ dignity. This is worthy public policy.
But $350,000 a unit?
As I recall, past debates from the dais on the seemingly high cost of affordable public housing focused on one key question: How do we build all the affordable public housing we need in Fresno (or California or the United States) if each unit costs X amount?
In the case of Annadale Commons, X is $350,000-plus.