Officials Break Ground on Pony Express Senior Apartments
60-unit complex at corner of Shasta Drive and Aegean Way aims to provide homes for low-income seniors
By Nick Sestanovich | July 1, 2021
One hundred sixty years ago, Vacaville was a stop on the Pony Express, a horse-drawn system which expedited mail delivery in the U.S.
That history is not lost on Vacaville residents, as a historical marker and mural can be seen outside Heritage House Cafe, the location of the stop, and the Pony Express will be taking on a new significance in town as the name of a new senior apartment complex at the corner of Aegean Way and Shasta Drive. A groundbreaking was held Thursday.
The 60-unit complex is being delivered by PEP Housing, a Santa Rosa-based nonprofit development agency that strives to bring affordable housing with supportive services to seniors throughout California. The Pony Express will consist of 59 one-bedroom units and a single two-bedroom unit, in addition to such amenities as a dog park, computer room, fitness center, community room with a full kitchen, and on-site staff to provide services for the senior residents.
A major partner on the project is EAH Housing, a nonprofit based out of San Rafael. Welton Jordan, EAH’s chief real estate development officer, told The Reporter that seniors were chosen as the apartments’ clientele because many are on fixed incomes and are single.
“This gives a sense of community for the older generation,” he said. “It gives them a place to be able to live with dignity and age in place.”
Jordan said that for the aging population, many are being priced out of places to live, often putting them on the verge of becoming houseless. Michelle Sabolich, an events lead for EAH, said this was especially true of baby boomers, a continually growing segment of the senior population.
“They’re being edged out because of rising rents in the area,” she said. “(This is) a way for them to age in place and be a part of a welcoming community where they’ll live independently but still have supportive services.”
The city held a groundbreaking ceremony on the site, which had appetizers prepared by Erica Marie’s Catering and speeches by dignitaries as well as project representatives.
Jim Wallen, PEP’s director of housing development, called it a “rollercoaster of a project” that has seen several applications come and go over the last seven years. Executive Director Mary Stompe said funding was not successful until state Treasurer Fiona Ma announced that a $563 million bond had originally gone toward a proposed high-speed rail system from Victorville to Las Vegas, which was postponed as the market was found to be insufficient, had been reallocated board 17 housing projects throughout the state. One of them is the Pony Express Senior Apartments.
Stompe said 59 vouchers have already been awarded for the project.
“It will serve the very most vulnerable seniors in the community, and 15 units are set aside for seniors experiencing homelessness,” she said. “Seniors with little or no resources will have a place to call home.”
Ma also spoke at the ceremony, and she brought along her Chihuahua/terrier mix Nika, as her husband left the dog in her care as he was dispatched to Shasta County to fight the Lava Fire.
“She’s good,” she assured the crowd. “She’s usually on the campaign trail with me.”
Ma stressed the importance of senior housing and related that she lives with her 85-year-old father.
“I understand that as we age, we transition and steps aren’t that easy sometimes,” she said. “Building housing that accommodates older Americans as they age in place is important.”
Sean Pryden of PEP’s Board of Directors said the community will be a part of the project’s success.
“We all need your continued support to make sure that we meet this housing crisis that we face here in California,” he said. “We certainly need these units, not just from the affordable standpoint, but we absolutely need more affordable housing in California, and we’re so happy to be a small part of the solution.”
Vice Mayor Nolan Sullivan said he was very grateful for all the work that allowed the project to reach the groundbreaking stage and called it a very important project for the city.
“Seniors are a huge part of our community,” he said. “They’re the backbone and fabric of the town of Vacaville.”
Sullivan also cited the statewide and nonprofit groups that helped fund the project. These include the California Community Reinvestment Coporation, California Debt Limit Allocation Committee, California Tax Credit Allocation Committee, California Multifamily Housing Program, Umpqua Bank and the Merritt Community Capital Coporation.
David Dologite, director of acquisitions for Merritt, said the project “could not have started construction at a more sorely needed time.”
“Our fellow Californians are coming out of a shared pandemic facing economic uncertainty, paired with the threat of a wave of post-COVID-19 evictions and our shared statewide crisis of homelessness,” he said.
Dologite said the project would meet urgent needs and aim to improve the lives of low-income seniors in the area.
Laura Hall, president and CEO of EAH, said the 59 vouchers represented a variety of things.
“This means 59 new reasons to hope, 59 reasons to start anew and 59 ways to empower people to live healthier lives,” she said. “That is something to celebrate.”
Dologite said he was looking forward to returning for the ribbon cutting in approximately in two years.