Downtown Apartment Building off the Ground with Stimulus Funds

By Elizabeth Malloy, San Diego Source, The Daily Transcript 

Federal stimulus money is helping to jump start an affordable housing complex near Downtown San Diego, after financing stalled for the building last winter.

The Cedar Gateway building, located at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Cedar Avenue, is receiving more than $14 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the state of California.

The building will have 65 units, including 42 family units, and 23 “supportive” units for people who need assistance due to poor mental health.

“We wore some pretty long faces around January and February, ” said Gary Squier, president of Squier Properties, which is co-developing the building with ROEM Development. “And then something amazing happened: The federal government stepped up.”

Jonathan Emami, vice president of the ROEM Corp., the parent company of ROEM Development, said that the building was originally going to be financed with money from the San Diego Redevelopment Agency and the Centre City Development Corp. with 9 percent tax credits.

After the economy took a tumble last fall, those 9 percent tax credits became harder to come by, Emami said, and financing was harder to find.

Through the Recovery Act, the US Department of Housing Urban Development (HUD) was able to provide exchange dollars for those tax credits.

“We’re able to move forward now and the project hopefully will start some time in October,” Emami said.

Cedar Gateway is among the first affordable housing projects in the country to receive actual money from the Recovery Act, according to local HUD officials.

In addition to housing, the building will also have 4,300 square feet of retail space.

To qualify for affordable housing, residents need to make 60 to 30 percent of the median income of the surrounding area, which could anywhere from $20,000 to $45,000 a year for a family of four.

To qualify for the supportive housing units, which are mostly one-bedroom apartments, residents must suffer from mental illness.

Local advocates said those units would hopefully help people who are often forced onto the streets due to their psychiatric disabilities.

Squier said that the developer has taken safety concerns into their design and management plans.

The building will have an on-site manager, a front desk that checks

to make sure everyone who enters lives there, and the residents in the supportive housing units will have social workers helping them.

He said anyone who is considered dangerous to the other residents would be evicted.

“I’m building a $30 million asset, and we’re going to protect it,” he said.

Once the property is complete, Squier and ROEM plan to use FPI Management Co. to manage the building. The units will be for rent.

Silber Architects is designing the building.

Though the housing market is as low as its been in years and there are tax incentives for first time buyers, San Diego City Council President Ben Hueso said that there is still a need for affordable housing, particularly because financing is so hard to come by right now.

“We’re addressing kind of a different affordable housing need than we were a few years ago when prices were high but there were banks available,” he said. “This is a $33 million project with only about $2 million of private financing. Banks are not going anywhere near projects, even one like this that has such strong government confidence.”

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