New Arroyo Grande apartments welcome low-income families

The Courtland Street Apartments is a 36-unit People's Self-Help Housing complex in Arroyo Grande.
The Courtland Street Apartments is a 36-unit People's Self-Help Housing complex in Arroyo Grande. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

For Brian Higgins, one of the residents of a new low-income housing project in Arroyo Grande, the three-bedroom apartment he shares with his two daughters offers a chance for him to move forward.

Higgins, 33, was a chef in the Palm Springs area but moved to Arroyo Grande to be closer to family after his wife died two years ago.

After a lengthy application and approval process, Higgins and his daughters, Sophie, 7, and Noelle, 5, moved into the Courtland Street Apartments in September.

He sounded grateful as he gave a tour of the apartment during a grand opening ceremony of the complex Thursday.

“Getting into this place has been a huge help to get back on my feet and move forward,” said Higgins, who hopes to pursue a new career, perhaps in brewing.

The $11.7 million project was developed and will be managed by People’s Self-Help Housing Corp., a nonprofit organization that provides affording housing and programs for Central Coast residents.

The complex includes four one-bedroom units, 18 two-bedroom units and 14 three-bedroom units, a community room, a room for after-school programs, laundry facilities and a playground. Thirty-two families and four single people are already living there.

The apartments are intended for households that earn 30 percent to 60 percent of San Luis Obispo County’s median income, with monthly rents ranging from about $400 to $900. The median income for a family of four is $77,000, county officials said.

“To see the families move into this site and call it home ... that’s our mission,” said John Fowler, president and CEO of People's Self-Help Housing.

The Arroyo Grande City Council in 2011 approved the nonprofit’s proposal to construct the units on 1.63 acres at the corner of Courtland Street and East Grand Avenue.

The apartments were built on land that was once covered in strawberries, and the Arroyo Grande Public Art Committee and People's Self-Help also formally unveiled a piece of art Thursday that was created to honor the farmworkers who once worked there.

San Luis Obispo-based artist Jim Jacobson created a 6-foot-tall Japanese lantern sculpture that was installed at the front of the complex earlier this week.

Nearby, resident Jimi McFarlin, 39, was welcoming visitors into her three-bedroom apartment, which she shares with three of her children.

McFarlin, a recovering drug addict with six years of sobriety, moved to the Central Coast in 2009 from Las Vegas. She first shared a dilapidated trailer with a friend before moving into the Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter in San Luis Obispo.

McFarlin lived there a year and 10 months before she got into a public housing apartment in San Luis Obispo but wanted to move to Arroyo Grande to be closer to her church and support system.

Now taking classes at Cuesta College, McFarlin hopes to work in social services or as an advocate for homeless or abused children.

“I’m so happy here,” she said. “To walk in here and have a brand-spanking-new apartment — it’s amazing.”