Thursday, March 2, 2006
Bill Brasher, project director for the Southern California-based developer of Marina Heights, says that his company is going to build “102 affordable town homes and 23 affordable cottage units” as part of a 248-acre development on the former Fort Ord.That isn’t quite accurate.
“Affordable-housing unit” means a very specific thing. It signals that a residential unit will be sold or rented to people who, under evolving federal guidelines, earn a very low, low, or moderate income. The definition for these incomes varies per county and depends on family size. In Monterey County last year, to qualify for an affordable housing unit, a family of four had to earn between $30,000 and $72,000 annually.
But the 102 town homes and 23 cottages Brasher refers to aren’t affordable housing. They will be sold for a little less than market value, which means they are “below market,” not affordable.
To Quinton Roland, a consultant and former employee of the Marina Economic Development Department, that lack of clarity raises a problem.
“This should be a very simple matter,” says Roland. “They’ve unfortunately created a very confusing scheme that is confusing to professionals, not to mention the general public. And in the redevelopment business, complexity favors those who have the financial and human resources to manager through it.”
What irks Roland and others, including Rep. Sam Farr, is that Marina Heights proponents give the appearance that about 32 percent of the 1,050 new residential units planned for Marina Heights will be new affordable units.
That is not true.
In fact, 20 percent of the project’s homes will be affordable and another 10 percent will be priced as “bridge” homes, meaning that they will be sold for little less than the going market rate but more expensive than the affordable rate. And not all of them will be new.
Under both state and municipal statutes, the project is required to provide a minimum of 20 percent affordable units. The developer of Marina Heights is building only 51 brand new affordable town homes—less then one-fourth of what is required. In order to account for the remaining affordable homes, the city of Marina’s Redevelopment Agency and the Fort Ord Reuse Authority (FORA) opted to count existing apartments, in which people currently live, sitting next to the Marina Heights project land.
Under the Marina Heights project plan, 186 of the existing 192 Abrams B residential units will be converted into affordable housing rental units for very low- and low-income residents. So, including the Abrams B existing housing stock, the Marina Heights project will provide a total of 237 affordable units, plus 125 below-market units.
In about two weeks, FORA will hand the reigns of the Marina Heights project area over to the City. The City will in turn hand over the 248 acres to the developer, Cypress Marina Heights.
However, as of yet, no plans exist as to what will happen to the families who now live in Abrams B when those affordable units are required.
Marina City Councilman Gary Wilmot puts the Marina Heights housing quandary in perspective. He says the state only requires 15 percent affordable units for a project like Marina Heights. The City added another 5 percent on top of that for its redevelopment project on the former Fort Ord and added another layer—10 percent—of “bridge” housing units, which are below market-rate homes.
“If in the next four or five years you combine all of the affordable housing in the areas around Marina,” Wilmot says, “and add it all up, you will find that it pales in comparison to what Marina is going to be doing.”