Low income housing project cleared

A 43-unit, low income housing project off Sonoma Highway near West Spain is headed to the Planning Commission for final approval after a unanimous vote by the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission.

“We’re excited about the project moving forward,” said Eve Stewart of Affordable Housing Associates, the project developer.

Valley Oaks Homes will be built on two acres behind frontage property at 19344 Sonoma Highway. Access to the site will be via an extension of Lyon Street.

Construction could begin by the end of 2011, Stewart said.

The city-owned land had been targeted for low income housing for several years. The choice of Berkeley-based AHA was ratified by the City Council in June of 2009.

“The developer has excellent credentials and track record,” said Councilmember Ken Brown, adding, “The selection process we have in place has worked extremely well in the past, and is fair and equitable.”

AHA is a nonprofit developer specializing in affordable housing. Over a thousand Bay Area residents now live in properties built or rehabilitated by AHA. A recently finished project, the 45-unit Petaluma Avenue Homes in Sebastopol, features innovative green building practices, and paid attention to the existing landscape features, how irrigation water is used, and how storm water is recycled onto the site.

While the city owns the land it’s up to AHA to find investors, who typically exchange equity for IRS tax credit. AHA is the general partner and will also act as property manager, including screening all applicants with a regulated application process,” and ongoing lease enforcement and property maintenance.

The project went before the SV Citizens Commission because it involved an environmental impact report. Stewart said the next step is a hearing before the city Planning Commission, most likely be in Jan. Members of the commission were favorable to the project during an initial discussion last year, Stewart said.

After that approval and being granted a use permit, AHA may begin its funding phase, which includes pursuing state financing. Best case, she said, construction will begin in about a year.

According to county guidelines, the apartments will be available to families earning less than $48,000 annually.


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