San Mateo County supervisors committed $8 million for six affordable housing developments including units for seniors and mentally ill using money freed up by liquidating the former redevelopment agencies.
The community will see construction on these developments happening over the next one to three years, said Department of Housing Director William Lowell who added that, without the money, they would have required years of time and heavy fundraising.
Considering the challenges following the redevelopment agencies’ elimination, “today is a good day for affordable housing in San Mateo County,” said Mark Mouton of the Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County.
Mouton added his hope that the one-time funding is a sign of future plans to find a permanent ongoing source.
The projects given funding at Tuesday’s meeting will provide 235 units of new housing and were plucked from a list of seven applicants which collectively sought $15.8 million. The Waverly Place development in North Fair Oaks by the Mental Health Association received its full $800,000 request. The Junipero Serra Transit Village in Daly City proposed by Bridge Housing received none of its sought $3 million. The remaining five requests were funded in varied amounts ranging from $300,000 to $2.35 million. They include Willow Housing in Menlo Park, Foster Square Senior Housing in Foster City, 6800 Mission St. in Daly City, Gateway Apartments in Menlo Park and University Avenue Senior Housing in East Palo Alto.
Tuesday’s unanimous decision piggybacked on its approval last April of roughly $13.4 million of unrestricted federal funds for affordable housing that came from a one-time distribution of the former RDA money. The disbursement came with the caveat that $8 million be used for affordable housing projects in the cities that lost their RDAs at the time of planning or located in the unincorporated areas of the county. The remaining money includes about $3 million for homeless shelter construction and improvement and approximately $2 million to acquire small residential properties for transitional and permanent house for special needs populations.
Lowell said the Department of Housing tried prioritizing which projects were most ready out of the gate.
Steve Toler, assistant city manager in Foster city, said the Foster Square project next to City Hall — formerly referred as the 15-acre site — can’t be any more ready after years of planning and preparing to spend $12 million in Foster City RDA money.
“We’ve done everything but buy the shovels,” Toler said.
The county’s investment must also be leveraged with other funding, including that from cities, and include units for the homeless or those at risk of homelessness.
The Waverly Place project includes 15 studio apartments for adults with serious mental illness who Melissa Platte, executive director of the county’s Mental Health Association, said are among the most at risk and low income.
“It’s an incredibly important project for our clients and for us,” Platte said.
The list of recommendations lauds all of the projects but noted that some, like the Junipero Serra Transit Village, are not eligible because it does not have the city fund commitment or dedicated 2 percent of the units to the homeless. The University Avenue Senior Housing project had no city funding commitment in place at the time of application but Lowell said the East Palo Alto City Council will consider $350,000 in seed money at its Feb. 18 meeting.
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