September 20, 2011 08:15 AM
By Mike Stillman, Communications Coordinator, EAH Housing
In Marin County, an affluent suburb north of San Francisco, there is an influx of over 60,000 people packing the county's roadways every weekday morning, driving to their jobs from all corners of the nine-county region that makes up the Bay Area. At the same time, approximately 40,000 mostly higher-income Marin County residents leave the area heading for jobs in the city and elsewhere.
The constant ebb and flow of the county's residents and workforce is the result of a lopsided housing market, where home prices bear no relation to the incomes earned from available jobs in the area. In June 2011, the median home price in Marin was over $800,000, well out of the range of many of the people who keep the county running and its residents safe, such as paramedics, EMTs, school teachers, nurses, social workers and police dispatchers.
Communities become disconnected when a region's housing costs aren't aligned with the incomes earned in the job market. Families can't spend as much quality time together when parents are commuting long distances. Traffic congestion becomes commonplace, posing health and environmental risks.
Looking for a better way forward, EAH Housing, a nonprofit affordable housing corporation, recently partnered with Citi to build 24 rental apartment homes for working families in Marin County. The development, called Drake's Way, keeps cars off the road and promotes healthy lifestyles by allowing residents to live within walking distance of public transit, shops, offices, entertainment, parks and a child care center. Residents must earn at or below 50% of the area median income for Marin County, as defined by HUD, which is $56,500 for a family of four.
What's more, Drake's Way features a number of sustainable elements in its design and construction, including a solar-powered community room, recycled building materials and native plant landscaping, which earned the property the prestigious LEED Silver rating, the first LEED designation given to an affordable housing property in Marin County.
Citi Community Capital financed the project with a construction loan and a permanent, tax-exempt mortgage funded by the private purchase of a $9.1 million bond issue. Even though the deal proved challenging and the project came together just as the economy was collapsing into recession, Citi worked closely with the EAH Housing team to see the project through to completion.
EAH Housing has been developing and managing affordable housing throughout California and Hawai'i for 43 years and has partnered with Citi for decades on a number of other developments. Together, EAH and Citi have made an important impact in communities throughout the western United States. For example, in another recent development partnership in Honolulu - like Marin County, an extremely high-cost housing market. EAH Housing and Citi worked together to preserve and rehabilitate Kukui Gardens, a housing community that provides 389 apartments for working families and older adults. This project was selected as the winner of the 2011 Affordable Housing Finance Magazine's Reader's Choice Award in the Preservation Category.
EAH Housing and Citi are committed to revitalizing communities by creating sustainable multi-family housing. Developments like Drake's Way and Kukui Gardens not only provide critical workforce housing, they also permit working people to avoid long commutes, saving them money and enabling them to spend more time with their families and neighbors.