Almanac

News - May 15, 2013

City plans to pay $2.5M for new housing on VA campus

by Barbara Wood

Menlo Park's City Council took a step May 7 toward meeting its state-mandated obligation to plan for more affordable housing in the city when the council gave preliminary approval to putting $2.5 million in city funds toward a new 60-unit, two-story, low-rent apartment building on the grounds of the Department of Veterans Affairs off Willow Road.

The money would come from the city's BMR (below market rate) Housing Fund. In return for the contribution, the developers, CORE Affordable Housing, would give those who live or work in Menlo Park, and meet the income limits, priority in renting 11 of the units. (They do not have to be veterans, but if they are, they would get even higher priority.)

The agreement comes as the city is scrambling to meet its promise, made as part of a lawsuit settlement, to comply with state laws requiring the city to come up with ways to provide more housing.

The units, which CORE Assistant Project Manager Darci Palmer said will rent for between $555 and $795 a month to those making no more than $30,000 a year, qualify under state guidelines as "very low income" housing.

One of the units would be reserved for a live-in manager, meaning the 59 other units would fulfill 25 percent of the quota for very low-income units the state says Menlo Park should provide for. The complex would have 54 studios and six one-bedroom units.

The VA will provide the land as part of a nationwide push to use underutilized VA land to house homeless veterans, Ms. Palmer said. The building is one of 35 such projects.

Ms. Palmer said CORE has developed 18 properties in the past 16 years and still owns and operates all of them. CORE will work with EHC LifeBuilders, a homelessness prevention agency, to provide services for the residents of the complex.

CORE has also applied for $600,000 in assistance from San Mateo County.

Assistant City Manager Starla Jerome-Robinson recommended the City Council finalize its financial assistance for the project once CORE has completed environmental review and shows it can obtain the rest of the financing for the project.

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