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East Palo Alto City Council OKs Senior-Housing Development

by Sue Dremann / Palo Alto Weekly

In broad support of its commitment to keep its low-income population within the city, the East Palo Alto City Council unanimously approved going forward with a 41-unit senior-housing development.

The council also approved a total $700,000 funding commitment toward the estimated $21.5 million project on Tuesday night. Councilwoman Donna Rutherford recused herself because her daughter works for MidPen Housing, which is one of the applicants.

The vote marks a significant commitment to the city’s seniors, who represent just 6 percent of the city’s population, Interim City Manager Carlos Martinez said. But the $700,000 would represent one third of the city’s $2.1 million allocation for affordable-housing projects, he said.

Still, with an estimated 72 percent rise in San Mateo County’s senior population by 2030, affordable senior housing will be an important element in the future. With the city’s commitment, the University Avenue Senior Apartments project has a better chance of qualifying for up to $15 million in California Tax Credit Allocation Committee (CTCAC) Low Income Housing Tax Credit program, representatives from MidPen Housing said.

The project has already received a $5.4 million commitment from San Mateo County. It can borrow $2.5 million from San Mateo County Section 8 programs, receive $600,000 from Community Development Block Grant programs and $400,000 from the federal home loan program.

The council previously committed $300,000 for the project in March 2014. MidPen and local nonprofit EPA CAN DO requested the additional $400,000 in part to help their chances of getting the highly competitive CTCAC grant, which considers a municipality’s contribution to a project.

The council approved the allocation with three stipulations forwarded by Councilman Ruben Abrica: that staff does due diligence to determine if the project costs are adequate and that the city will benefit in the long term from the development; that staff define how and if local seniors will be encouraged to apply for the housing; and that the payment is subject to up to three rounds of applying for the CTCAC program, to which the city can apply thrice in a year.

Councilman Larry Moody seconded the motion.

The proposal was roundly supported by community members and nonprofit organizations, including the Greenbelt Alliance. Natalie Dean, a Greenbelt representative, called the project “an excellent example of infill development that demonstrated the efficient use of land.”

This article was originally published on February 18, 2015 by the Palo Alto Weekly.

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