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Council approves $3M loan for affordable housing in Fremont

10 October 2008 No Comment

By Karen Weise

With little fanfare and no opposition, the Fremont City Council approved a $3 million loan for a once-controversial affordable housing project in Irvington. The loan will allow non-profit developer Allied Housing to purchase a 1.6-acre vacant site to build Main Street Village, with 55 to 63 affordable housing apartments and six to eight ground-floor commercial spaces.

The site has not been maintained over the last few years. Proponents say the project has the potential to relieve blight in the neighborhood.

The site has not been maintained over the last few years. Proponents say the project has the potential to relieve blight in the neighborhood.

When the project first came before City Council in January for a $219,000 loan, six community members voiced their opposition to the project, primarily because of what they said was an over-concentration of affordable housing projects in Irvington. This Tuesday, Oct. 7, the loan passed in under ten minutes, with no one contesting. The largest group in attendance was Boy Scout Troop 112, who was observing the meeting.

“Last night was the first major concrete step to making this project happen by actually buying the land,” said Louis Chicoine, executive director of Allied Housing and the Tri-City Homeless Coalition, which will operate the new site at Main and High Streets in the Irvington Redevelopment Area.

Greg Green, president of the Irvington Business Association and who led the earlier opposition, said he was not aware of Tuesday’s vote.

“Notification of these types of council votes and movements by the City are not as well published as they should be,” he said.

Allied Housing asked the city for the $3 million loan after a private loan fell “victim of the current credit crisis,” according to Chicoine. The loan is part of the award that Fremont received from the State’s loan fund for affordable housing projects, Housing Enabled by Local Partnership (HELP). Fremont would have lost the funds if they were not committed by Nov. 22.

Allied risked losing the property if they could not commit funds by Nov. 1. Chicoine said the $3 million loan will provide gap funding for two years, until permanent funding from the local redevelopment area kicks in.

The west end of the Main Street Village site, with residential neighbors down Lincoln St.

The west end of the Main Street Village site, with residential neighbors down Lincoln St.

Since January, the board of Allied Housing has tried to reach out to the site’s neighbors, Chicoine said. He said the organization did a mailing to over a thousand households and followed up with those who requested meetings. They also went door-to-door to direct neighbors of the site. Chicoine said they directly met with 28 different households.

The Coalition also met with the Irvington Business Association before the January vote. During Thursday’s council meeting, Vice Mayor Bill Harrison “applauded” the Coalition’s outreach effort.

Irvington Business Association’s Green said he felt the outreach was insufficient.

“There was some engagement with regards to architectural standards being met and appearance of properties, but no meat and potatoes discussion as to whether these are good for the community,” he said.

Chicoine said new affordable housing projects tend to cluster in Redevelopment Areas because the state requires that 20 percent of those funds must be used for affordable housing. Irvington and Centerville are the largest redevelopment areas and therefore the most likely to have land available for affordable housing, Chicoine said.

Green said he and the business association’s members were concerned Irvington has insufficient jobs to support an influx of low income residents, and that the district’s density of affordable housing would hurt Irvington’s desire to attract “bohemian-type businesses.” He said he sees a problem in “creating a transient populace that is non-supportive of the local business atmosphere.”

Residents at Main Street Village will receive permanent housing and related supportive services so long as they qualify as low income, which means earning less than 80 percent of the area’s median income. Chicoine said his past projects have improved underutilized and blighted properties since he believes their buildings are well-built and well-managed.

Mayor Bob Wasserman said Main Street Village was “notable” because it fit with the redevelopment plan for Irvington and is located near the future Irvington BART station.

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