$6 million loan boosts planned Fremont affordable senior apartments

FREMONT — Plans for a 90-unit affordable senior apartment complex got a major boost this week, as the Fremont City Council approved loaning the developer over $6 million to cover land and pre-development costs.

The Irvington Senior Community Apartments are planned for a 1.4-acre site that formerly housed Roger’s Camping Trailers, at 4038 Irvington Ave., near the intersection with Fremont Boulevard.

The apartments would be offered to people age 55 or older, who have experienced homelessness or who are veterans, according to a city staff report. It would also include supportive social services on site.

The development is proposed by Allied Housing, the building and development arm of Fremont-based affordable housing provider Abode Services.

While the project design is still in early stages, city development staff “is working closely with Allied to ensure that the proposed project meets all city design policies, guidelines and standards,” according to a staff report.

Allied expects to bring the project to Planning Commission in March 2019, and then to the City Council if approved.

The council Tuesday approved loaning $6.2 million Tuesday from the city’s affordable housing fund, which is paid into by developers of market-rate projects.

The city loan will allow Allied to pay off a previous loan it secured to buy the property, and save $400,000 in interest over the next couple of years. Allied will not be required to pay back the loan from the city for 55 years, at 3 percent interest.

Allied already has developed two other affordable and supportive housing projects in the Irvington area, including Laguna Commons, which opened in November 2016 across the street from the proposed site of the senior apartments.

Abode’s executive director, Louis Chicoine, said residents have previously voiced opposition to affordable housing there because they worried it would bring crime, or lower property values, but he hasn’t heard those concerns while doing outreach for this project.

“People are beginning to understand that there’s a new type of building that will be coming into poor areas of the city, and that these will be well-designed and attractive buildings,” he said in an interview Thursday.

“Laguna Commons is seen by a lot of people now as an asset in Irvington … and a trendsetter for other creative design that hopefully will come to Irvington,” Chicoine said.

Some residents have also complained that Irvington bears too much of the brunt of affordable housing stock in the city, but Chicoine pushed back against that.

“I reject the premise that the projects are doing harm to communities. Quite frankly, they are often the best built, best looking buildings in an area. And I think particularly in Irvington, it’s pretty hard to argue that they are not an enhancement,” he said.

“We’re developing an area where the land is available, and where there’s services like a future BART station nearby,” he said. “We’re going where the opportunity is.”

The senior apartments would have three social services staff members on site to help tenants with things such as “case management, personal health care, mental health services, transportation and substance recovery,” the staff report said.

Allied will seek other county, state and federal funding for the project, but the city may need to chip in more by the time construction could begin in 2020.

An additional $2.8 million subsidy from the city and $10 million from the city’s share of County Measure A1 Funds, an affordable housing property tax bond passed in 2916, could be required in order to build the project, according to the city staff report.

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