After a few disappointments, the financing needed to begin replacement of the crumbling Oak Park affordable housing project in Paso Robles is secure. That’s excellent news in a county where housing is still among the least affordable in the nation.
Kudos to the Paso Robles Housing Authority — the nonprofit agency that runs the affordable housing program — as well as to city and county officials who played a critical role in helping the Housing Authority qualify for funding.
The “new” Oak Park will be built in four or five phases and will eventually include up to 302 units. That’s more than double the current 148 units, which will be demolished due to their deteriorated condition.
The bulk of funding for the first phase of 80 units is from a federal tax credit program.
Here’s how it works: Applicants with approved projects are granted tax credit allocations, which they then sell to investors — typically private corporations — that receive adollar-for-dollar credit against their federal tax liability. In exchange, those firms provide equity for affordable housing.
Qualifying wasn’t easy; the Housing Authority had been trying for two years before receiving a $16 million allocation this year.
It had some help. Among other criteria, the Housing Authority had to demonstrate financial support from other agencies. That was done: The city of Paso Robles agreed to defer $1 million in development fees, and the county allocated $1.3 million in federal funds it receives from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Those were excellent decisions.
The need for this project is clear: The existing Oak Park apartments were built in 1941 to house military and civilian personnel from Camp Roberts and time has taken a heavy toll. Some units are in such bad shape they are no longer rented since it would cost too much to repair them.
Plus, the 25-acre site is under-utilized, and that’s especially unfortunate in a county so badly in need of more affordable housing.
The new Oak Park will rectify that. By building a mix of one- two- and three-story buildings, the property will easily accommodate up to 302 units. Even at that number, the density will still be in the mediumto low-range, and there will be enough space for a2.5 acre park with soccer fields, a community center and other amenities.
Other pluses: The project will include several “green” features, including solar panels installed on carport roofs. The panels should produce enough energy to meet the needs of the entire project.
It’s been a while in coming, but we believe the end product will be worth the wait. Again, we commend the Housing Authority and all other agencies and individuals involved.
Through their perseverance and cooperation, the aging Oak Park neighborhood will soon undergo a transformation.
Editorials are the opinion of The Tribune.