Drive Highway 99 north through Stockton and you’ll change any preconceived notions you may have about affordable housing.
On the west side of the freeway just past the Mariposa Road exit you’ll see a nice looking apartment complex. It reflects all the exterior nuances one would expect in a Northern San Joaquin Valley multiple-family housing complex you’d classify as being in — or close to — the upper scale genre.
The complex that was completed last year is rented exclusively to low-income farm workers.
It is the handiwork of Stockton-based Visionary Home Builders. The non-profit has devoted more than 30 years up ending preconceived notions about what affordable housing looks like and now it is operated. Visionary Home Builders manages 1,204 units at 27 properties in five counties with most of their endeavors in Stockton.
Some of their complexes were built from scratch others were dilapidated structures purchased and rehabilitated. All rents are based on government affordable housing guidelines from low income to up 125 percent of the median income in a community.
They also engage in making home ownership possible by buying dilapidated homes, rehabilitating them and then working with qualifying families to rent or lease. When the time comes to buy they are sold to the family at the price the non-profit paid for the property. It is part of their Bounce Back to Homeownership targeting families that lost their homes to foreclosure.
One of their previous efforts in partnership with the Neighborhood Stabilization Program worked with more than 100 San Joaquin County families — including a number in Manteca — to assist families to buy foreclosed homes in a bid to shore up neighborhoods hit hard by the mortgage crisis.
The low income farmworkers project known as Casa de Espazra features 70 units ranging from studios to four bedrooms. It was made possible by an $11.5 million federal tax credit. In a nutshell, by investing in affordable housing a company can secure federal tax breaks.
It is the same federal tax credit program that made low income housing for seniors at Almond Terrace on North Union Road and Magnolia Court on North Main Street behind Dribble’s Car Wash possible in Manteca. In both cases — along with workforce housing provided by the Juniper Apartments on Atherton Drive — the tax credits were wed with funds from the now defunct Manteca Redevelopment Agency.
Juniper Apartments and its 150 units were built and are being managed by a different non-profit than Visionary Home Builders. It is still the same concept. Design them so they fit into the neighborhoods and offer units at subsidized rents on a sliding scale for tenants whose household income doesn’t exceed 125 percent of Manteca’s median income. Juniper Apartments is aimed at workforce housing needs,
From the outside there is little of any difference between Juniper Apartments and Manteca’s top-of-the-market Paseo Villas just down the street on Atherton Drive were two bedroom and two bathroom units top out at $1,980 a month.
The Juniper Apartments have a waiting list in excess of 200 people. That underscores the need for affordable housing — rental and otherwise — in Manteca.
Two things should be clear. Current affordable housing efforts in Manteca and elsewhere in the Northern San Joaquin Valley are falling painfully short. At the same time non-profits like Visionary Home Builders have gained a reputation for doing things right by blowing up affordable housing stereotypes. They have a working knowledge of what needs to be done to encourage more affordable housing.
“To live and work here (in Manteca) is a luxury for a lot of people,” Jose Nuno, the vice president of Visionary Home Builders told the Manteca Noon Rotary Thursday during their meeting at Ernie’s Rendezvous Room.
Nuno, who also serves on the Manteca Planning Commission, knows the city has a lot of land zoned to encourage affordable housing to be built but it isn’t happening.
Like most things, it has to do with money. Even so, Nuno said there are some steps the city could take that involved little or no money.
uLOT SIZES: The smallest standard lot for a single family home allowed without trying to secure an exemption to zoning rules is 6,000 square feet. Most lots approved for new homes in Manteca range from 7,000 to 11,000 square feet. Nuno suggests reducing the minimum lot size to 4,000 square feet without making builders jump through hoops.
uREDUCE FEES: The city could encourage affordable housing development by coming up with a way to reduce fees for projects that are designed to serve the below market price buyer and/or renter.
uSEEK PROPSOLS FOR SPECIFIC LAND: To jumpstart affordable home building Nuno noted the city could request proposals for a competitive process for the development of an affordable housing project. He said this would require Manteca putting something on the table as well to help build a financing model for housing to be built whether it is reduced fees for the project or incentives that may allow builders to be more flexibility with at-market projects they may be moving forward.
Visionary Home Builders also educate people with free workshops on rental counseling, debt and savings counseling, savings plan, and secured credit cards.
“We teach them about money,” Nuno said. “It’s a powerful tool if you understand it.”
For more details on Visionary Homes programs go to www.visionaryhomebuilders.com.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org