Fairfield Improves Quality of Life for Residents With Special Needs

The City of Fairfield won an Award for Excellence for this project in the Housing Programs and Innovations category of the 2007 Helen Putnam Award for Excellence program. For more information about the award program, visit www.cacities.org/helenputnam.

The Laurel Gardens Apartments complex, completed in February 2006, is the first permanent supportive housing project in Fairfield specifically designed and constructed for the homeless and/or people with disabilities. Its goal is to maximize tenants’ self-sufficiency and create a lasting, attractive community asset.

The project resulted from a partnership between the Fairfield Redevelopment Agency, Fairfield Housing Authority, Resources for Community Develop ment (RCD) and Caminar. Caminar is a nonprofit agency with more than 40 years of experience providing a full range of community-based rehabilitation services for people with psychiatric, physical and developmental disabilities. RCD is a non-profit housing development corporation with 20 years experience creating and preserving affordable housing for people with special needs.

RCD and Caminar jointly own and developed the Laurel Gardens Apartments. By having a stake in the ownership, Caminar improves the long-term viability of the project through its continuous presence on-site, working with management to mitigate potential problems and helping residents make progress in job searches and to maintain their independent living skills.

The apartments are located on property where three severely blighted homes previously stood.

The Laurel Gardens Apartment project met the Fairfield Redevelopment Agency’s goal of improving and increasing the supply of affordable housing in the area, while also meeting Fairfield’s priorities to:

  • Assist low-income renter households;
  • Provide emergency shelter, transitional and permanent housing to homeless individuals and families; and
  • Partner with local agencies to develop a supportive housing program for low- and moderate-income individuals with disabilities and, when possible, to increase homeownership.

Assembling the Financing

RCD initially acquired the site with a below-market rate loan from the Cor poration for Supportive Housing, which required that 29 units be rent- and income-restricted to households earning no more than 50 percent of the area’s median income.

Grants and loans from a variety of sources made construction of Laurel Gardens Apartments possible. Financing included $3.1 million in tax credit equity, $2.8 mil lion from the state HOME Program, $1.7 million from the state Multifamily Housing Program, $1.1 million from the Fairfield Redevelopment Agency (includ ing $400,000 from the agency’s HELP loan from the California Housing Finance Agency) and $400,000 from the U.S. De partment of Housing and Urban Devel opment’s Supportive Housing Program. It took three years to assemble the financing.

In addition, several local agencies helped by deferring fees for the project during construction, including the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District, Solano County, Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District and the City of Fairfield.

Tenant Eligibility

The redevelopment agency also facilitated the relationship with the Fairfield Housing Authority to secure 21 Section 8 project- based housing vouchers. The housing authority committed these vouchers from its limited supply of vouchers for low- income families, which was the first time it had dedicated Section 8 subsidies to an affordable housing project in this way.

RCD and Caminar received more than 150 applications for one of the 29 avail able units at the complex. Applicants were selected by lottery from the existing Section 8 waiting list and by referrals from Caminar case managers.

Success on Multiple Levels

Laurel Gardens Apartments is the first affordable housing project built in Fairfield (and Solano County) that provides on-site supportive services to low-income indi viduals with disabilities and former homeless people, and it fills a critical gap in the continuum of mental health residential services in Solano County. This housing project succeeded on several levels by:

  • Allowing disabled parents formerly living in adult-only housing to reunite with their children;
  • Offering assistance to the homeless and people with disabilities who want to re-enter the job market;
  • Providing affordable housing to low-income people at risk for becoming homeless; and
  • Leveraging resources and expertise of nonprofits and government agencies.

By enriching lives and creating affordable housing for people with few options, this program benefits the entire community.

Contact: Lee Evans, management analyst, City of Fairfield; phone: (707) 428-7438; e-mail: levans@ci.fairfield.ca.us.

This article appears in the March 2008 issue of Western City
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