media posts banner eah housing

Builder of California affordable housing reveals what it takes to fund projects when costs, needs are so high

North Bay Business Journal

July 06, 2022 – Continuing to keep up with the need for low-income housing is a never-ending challenge in California, made so by delays and the need to pursue funding, some times having to tap up to 20 funding sources to build a single project.

“Our wait list for a new PEP housing complex currently has 300 names. This is the first time we have had to close the wait list in our 44-year history,” said Mary Stompe, executive director of nonprofit Petaluma Ecumenical Properties (PEP) Housing in Santa Rosa.

“We can’t obtain, build and remodel units fast enough to satisfy demand. Finding funding can take up to five years,” said Stompe, explaining that in addition to funding, delays can be because of time needed to purchase property and gain government approvals.

PEP Housing has 21 properties with a total of 677 units located in five Northern California counties. Fourteen are located in Petaluma, three in Santa Rosa and one each in Ukiah, Kentfield, Vacaville and Oroville. 

Nearing completion this summer is the 54-unit, 46,170-square-foot PEP River City Senior Apartments at 951 Petaluma Blvd., built on 1.31 acres. It is designed for seniors 62 and over. Nineteen units are reserved for homeless veterans through Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH), and 15 units are set aside for homeless seniors.

Set back 20 feet from the banks of the Petaluma River, this new community consists of two two-story buildings and one three-story structure with 40 parking spaces. The project is scheduled for completion in August.

Built by Wright Contracting, River City will feature a community room, outdoor barbecue, office, group room, high-speed Internet and wellness center along with a community path and patio area. PEP is constructing a bicycle and pedestrian trail on city-owned land adjacent near the eastern property boundary connecting to existing and planned river access trail segments and the dock on the river.

Wellness center providers include medical, dental and other health services professionals. Rental assistance and individualized case management also will be provided to formerly homeless veterans.

The project has received a Greenpoint Silver rating for energy efficiency and is being built with sustainable materials wherever possible. A transit stop is in front of the property on Petaluma Boulevard South.

The general partner of owner River City Senior Apartments LP is River City Senior Apartments LLC, with Caulfield Lane Senior Housing Inc. as its sole member. Caulfield is a nonprofit that has a common board of directors with PEP, is solely controlled by PEP, and serves as a supporting organization to PEP.

Funding for River City Senior Apartments was obtained from several sources, including $16.12 million from limited partner Merritt Capital; a $7.26 million loan from California Community Reinvestment Corporation; a $1.3 million land loan from city of Petaluma; a $1.5 million loan from city of Petaluma Housing; a $600,000 loan from county of Sonoma Housing Fund; a $975,000 loan from County HEAP; $250,000 from Home Depot; $825,000 from AHP, and a $1.595 million (Def. Developer Fee). Silicon Valley Bank is the construction lender.

Total cost for the River City project is $30.65 million, but it could go higher, according to Stompe.

She said in the past PEP has had to obtain partial funding from as many as 19 sources for a single project.

“We are constantly looking for additional resources for all of our properties to stay on the cutting edge,” Stompe said. “My philosophy is to go beyond affordable housing basics and food to provide quality of life amenities for those in their golden years while also helping to keep residents from becoming socially isolated.”

For example, PEP trained 230 residents in interactive groups to use Apple iPad tablets that were given to seniors as gifts.

“Our wellness centers bring in nurses and occupational therapists and other health professionals to help residents live independently longer with emphasis on exercise, diet, prevention and meeting their accessibility needs,” Stompe said.

Providing a range of services for residents means partnering with other nonprofits, such as Meals on Wheels and food banks to fill gaps in the support network.

In east Santa Rosa, the $10.3 million 26-unit Linda Tunis Senior Apartments PEP project for low-income seniors at 600 Acacia Lane is set for completion in September. It is dedicated to seniors — such as Linda Tunis — who died at the Journey’s End Mobile Home Park during the 2017 Tubbs Fire.

This project involves the conversion of the former Scottish Rite Event Center into studio apartments. Thirteen residents will receive housing vouchers from the Santa Rosa Housing Authority. Voucher holders pay approximately 30% to 40% of their monthly income and the housing authority pays the remainder. Five apartments will be reserved for homeless seniors.

“The Scottish Rite dining room is large and could be remodeled to serve as a mental health center with classrooms for group services, counseling and therapy,” Stompe said.

Prospective residents who do not receive vouchers from the Santa Rosa Housing Authority will be selected from the general population, with preference given to seniors impacted by federally declared disasters, including wildfires, The Press Democrat reported in October 2021. 

In Vacaville, PEP Housing with support from the city and San Rafael-based EAH Housing is developing the 60-unit Pony Express Senior Apartment complex for those with low-and-very-low-income senior veterans. Scheduled to open in February, the complex at 220 Aegean Way features a community room, wellness center, raised garden beds, landscaped areas, walking pathways and a dog run.

“One thing we’ve learned over the years is the importance of pets in the lives of our residents, not just as companions, but also as service animals for their safety and well-being,” Stompe said. “Having access to affordable veterinary care is another urgent need to keep them healthy, since most residents cannot afford to pay for vet care. We created our first dog run in 2014 and are thinking about adding a dog wash station in the future.”

Stompe said another new concept being implemented at Pony Express is called the “Cave,” a place to work on craft projects, host workshops, enjoy pool tables and participate in other enriching and fun activities.

According to Jim Wallen, PEP director of development, this nonprofit is also seeking rehabilitation funding needed to recertify 49 units at the Vigil Light Senior Apartments purchased in 2021 located at 1945 Long Drive behind the Flamingo Hotel in Santa Rosa. Fifteen of these apartments are reserved for homeless individuals.

Read more HERE.