A 77-year-old public housing neighborhood in Tracy is due for a more than a makeover.
The Housing Authority of San Joaquin County plans to replace its 60-unit Tracy Homes neighborhood on West Street with a public housing development that will include new apartment buildings with a recreation center, new houses, and a new apartment complex for older adults, all designed to be affordable to people earning significantly less than the median income.
Peter Ragsdale, executive director of Housing Authority of San Joaquin County, is lining up all the financing needed to pay for a public housing project. Last week, the housing authority secured a key piece of the $40 million price tag for the first phase when the Tracy City Council unanimously agreed to lend the housing authority $4 million from the city’s Low and Moderate Income Housing Asset Fund.
The fund was created as a successor to the Tracy Community Development Agency. While changes in state law dissolved redevelopment agencies in 2012, the money those agencies raised through property tax revenue increases within redevelopment districts stayed with cities. That money was reserved for the types of projects that a redevelopment agency would finance, including affordable housing.
Ragsdale said that Tracy Homes is that type of project. He said the $4 million from the city would signal to other government agencies that this project has solid local support. The city’s loan is part of a financing package that Ragsdale expects will be made up mostly of federal tax credits, about $23.5 million worth.
The federal tax credits are awarded through a competitive process, with the housing authority to apply for that money as the next step, hoping to have that cash in hand a year from now.
“To do affordable housing transactions, everyone has to create this layer cake of funding to get these projects built,” he said.
Other loans and the housing authority’s own money make up most of the rest of the financing package. An application for federal tax credits is judged largely on the other assets the applicant brings to the table.
“Because we have the benefit of owning land, support from the city of Tracy, we can compete generally favorably,” Ragsdale said. “It’s a good place to site affordable housing because there is investment by the city around recreation and educational amenities.”
The 6.74-acre parcel on West Street, between Fourth Street and Mount Diablo Avenue, has 60 homes now across a series of triplexes and duplexes. By late 2021, Ragsdale expects the financing to be in place and he hopes to have city-approved plans for the new development.
The existing buildings would be demolished and replaced with a new two apartment buildings, totaling 60 units, on West Street, along with a recreation center that includes a gymnasium and a library on the northeast corner of Fourth and West streets. A future phase would include an apartment building for older adults with 100 units at the corner of West Street and Mount Diablo Avenue.
“Essentially, by increasing density, we’ll be able to put back 160 units for both families and seniors, with a new rec center, smarter land use, which is of course what the community needs, and an opportunity to meet some of the affordable housing needs for folks in Tracy,” Ragsdale said.
In addition to the West Street apartments, the housing authority plans to replace some of its houses in the area of Third and First streets and A and B streets with a series of new homes, including three- and four-bedroom houses and some duplexes, totaling 20 units in all, during the first phase.
Ragsdale said it will probably be spring 2022 before all of the financing is in hand and the city’s planning department signs off on the plans. In the meantime, the housing authority will have to find homes for the residents who will be displaced.
The housing authority starts by looking within its own inventory of about 6,400 homes across San Joaquin County. If not enough of those are available, it provides rental assistance to families.
“Everybody maintains their income affordability for the rent. It’s going to be challenging. We know that there’s very little vacancy in San Joaquin County, and less in the south county,” he said. “We would be responsible for making sure folks find a comparable unit, and then, when the project is finished, they’re welcome to come back if they so choose.”
The housing authority seeks to provide housing to people who earn less than 60% of the area’s median income. That’s $66,000 for a family of four in San Joaquin County as a whole, but it’s about $84,000 in Tracy, and 60% of that comes to just over $50,000 a year. Housing is considered affordable if the renters can pay the rent using 30% of their income.
Ragsdale said that an application process determines whether people are eligible, and then they get put on a waiting list, but that list is so long now that the housing authority isn’t taking new applications. He estimates that 28,000 to 30,000 affordable homes would have to be built to meet the present need in San Joaquin County.
“There’s way more need in the county than there is supply for affordable units,” he said. “While we’re very excited to reposition this property from a preservation perspective, I have no illusions that any individual project solves the tremendous need.”