It’s been two years since residents at Paso Robles’ Oak Park neighborhood first readied to pack their belongings. The plan was to knock down the aging, 1940s-era rental complex on the city’s north end and replace the units with a complex twice its size.
But the largest affordable housing project in San Luis Obispo County, serving about 500 people, didn’t win the highly sought-after state and federal tax credits it needed to rebuild — until now.
Several phases of construction will complete the new apartments over five years at a total estimated cost of $95 million.
The first phase of work is slated to bring 200 jobs to the city for construction and related services, Housing Authority Project Manager Ken Trigueiro said. The 71-year-old development and its 148 units will be demolished and replaced with a 302-unit project. While doubling in size, the new design also strives to preserve open spaces.
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Although officials first applied for the money in 2010, the project was awarded the tax credit in the most recent go-around because of the financial backing it has received from other sources, mainly a $3 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and $1 million in deferred fees from the city.
“It’s a phenomenal amount of work to get to this point. It’s been about 10 years in the making,” Paso Robles Housing Authority director Armando Corella said.
The Housing Authority, a private nonprofit organization, expects to get $16 million in state and federal tax credits that it can then sell to investors in order to begin construction this fall. The Housing Authority’s board is made up of five citizens appointed by the City Council and two residents. Officials expect the allocation to be announced Wednesday.
The current complex, built in 1941, “is a ticking time bomb,” Corella has said. After many renovations over the years, there are still extensive problems with plumbing, cracked ceilings, dated fixtures and exposed water heaters.
Plans for renovation of the existing structures were evaluated in 2005, but the infrastructure still would have been too old, and such work would not have increased the amount of affordable housing within the city.
Additional money for the $26 million first phase has been secured through construction loans and additional state and federal programs.
The county announced last week that it’s helping disperse $1.3 million in federal money to the project from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. About $300,000 of that will go to the project’s second phase, which could begin as soon as spring 2013 and run concurrently with the first phase if a second tax allocation is awarded.
The city of Paso Robles also deferred about $1 million in developer impact fees to get the project going.
“That’s going to be a huge, huge improvement to the neighborhood and area,” Mayor Duane Picanco said, noting that it helps increase the city’s low-income housing base.
A relocation specialist is gearing up to help about 10 families find temporary homes in town with the help of a special type of federally subsidized Section 8 housing voucher used for relocations.
About 40 units will be demolished in the fall; the Housing Authority already has been transitioning residents away from those first-phase homes as people moved.
A second group of families will move into the 80 new units when the first-phase tenants also return.
All 302 new apartments will remain affordable to low- and very-low income households, officials said.
Rent now ranges from $700 to $1,125 per month, and officials expect the new rent to range from $700 to $1,200. But the low-income residents ultimately won’t pay more than 30 percent of their income toward rent, Trigueiro said.
The contractor for the first phase will be announced this month.
Tribune senior staff writer Bob Cuddy contributed to this report.