Hanford

Hanford-based behavioral health housing project takes heat from residents. Here’s how local officials are reacting.

An affordable and behavioral health housing project in Hanford provoked considerable public outcry with residents demanding local officials intervene and avoid building the project at the proposed location.

Last Wednesday, more than 500 people attended a special meeting of the Hanford City Council to discuss the proposed Northstar Courts housing project to be located near the southeast corner of N. 11th Ave. and Northstar Dr. in north Hanford. 

While residents largely spoke in opposition to the Northstar Courts, the affordable housing project is not financed in partnership between the city or the county and developers UPHoldings and Self-Help Enterprises. 

Because the project is a private deal without a public partnership, the city’s path forward if it wishes to prevent it from being built, is murky. 

“We’ve heard considerable anger from the neighbors about the project, and we’re trying to figure out if we have any options to answer those concerns, respond to those concerns,” Hanford Mayor Diane Sharp told The Sun. “There’s also tremendous need in Hanford for low income housing, so this is a tough issue for us.” 

UPHoldings has by-right use of the land, which allows for multi-family housing, and does not need to request any permits or zoning changes. 

“It’s not subject to a conditional use permit process,” Sharp said. “It wasn’t subject to either going through the planning commission or the city council.” 

The project will consist of 72 units in two buildings and will house residents on a standard 12-month lease. 

Per UPHoldings, 33 units will be occupied by current or retired farmworkers, 16 units will go to working families, one unit will be designated for a live-in manager and the other 22 units will house vulnerable populations in need of behavioral health services. 

Social services will be provided on site, including case management, vocational training, educational opportunities, financial literacy training and after school programs, among others. 

The income limit for residents is as follows: 

  • One household member: $29,400
  • Two household members: $33,600
  • Three household members: $37,800
  • Four household members: $41,940

Northstar Courts will be funded through Low Income Housing Tax Credits, California No Place Like Home funds, Hanford’s Permanent Local Housing Allocation funds, the Kings County Whole Person Care pilot program, Kings County Human Services Agency’s Homeless Housing, Assistance, and Prevention Program, as well as private financing. 

UPHolding expects to start construction in June and finish by November of next year. 

Kings County’s total contribution is around $1 million, which comes from state funds that are directed to affordable housing projects, Kings County Supervisor Doug Verboon told The Sun. 

“The state government always wants us to do facilities like this in our community. It’s a funded mandate, and it kind of puts the local electeds against the community, and that’s really tough to do because it would be easy for us just to say ‘no’ to not be at odds with our community,” Verboon said. 

“But at the same time the state holds back other funding that’s tied to this project. We don’t want to miss out on any opportunity to help take care of our community people that need help.” 

With the project currently at-odds with a large part of the community, Verboon said the county will meet with UPHoldings to discuss concerns and see if there is any room to negotiate other options for the project. 

While the county could pull its funding in an effort to derail the project, the county’s contribution is small enough that the developers would likely be able to replace it. Verboon also noted the importance of having the county’s behavioral health staff on site to prevent any problems that could arise with the residents in need of mental health services. 

“If we pull the funding it’s probably going to be a disservice to the neighborhood because we can keep them accountable to make sure that we don’t have a problem,” Verboon said. “If we pull the funding, they’re going to do what they want because they still have the right to build it under the state’s control and the state guidelines.” 

While the county is working on its end to address any problems with Northstar Courts, Sharp reaffirmed her commitment to listen to the community to come to a solution. 

“I’ve continued to engage and continued to talk with people who were concerned about the project. I’ve been having one-on-one meetings with different folks involved against the project, and I’ve reached out to the organizers of the 1776 Sons of Liberty, who seem to be sort of the catalyst for a lot of the energy against,” Sharp said. 

“I’m trying to reach out and listen, and the big message that came across last Wednesday night was “local politicians, you are not listening to us.’ I’m trying to counteract that and say, ‘Actually we’ve been listening all along,’ and I’m just continuing to do what I have been doing since I got involved in public services in this way, via elected office.” 

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.