How affordable housing can uplift a neighborhood
by Anne Stokes
When it came time to buy a home, Alicia Sebastian knew what she was looking for. And she found it in Old North Sacramento.
“My wife and I chose to be homeowners in this community,” she says. “We wanted to be part of a community that had a real sense of place.”
Unlike most home buyers, however, Sebastian has an extensive background in affordable housing: She’s an associate director for the California Coalition for Rural Housing, Sacramento Housing Alliance board member and a founding member of the North Sacramento Community Development Corporation. So when a new affordable housing complex on Del Paso Boulevard — Volunteers of America’s 1212 Village — was brought to the table at a community meeting, Sebastian recognized its potential to increase the neighborhood’s pool of available housing while at the same time providing a boost to Del Paso businesses.
“It’s my job to look at what sustains (and) stabilizes communities,” she says. “It’s a critical location for dense, multi-family housing to come in to provide those kinds of benefits (like) infrastructure and foot traffic.”
The 1212 Village complex is slated to offer 75 units of affordable housing at the corner of Del Paso Boulevard and Southgate Road. After the project’s construction, Volunteers of America (VOA) plans to maintain and manage the building and connect residents with supportive services such as employment assistance, financial literacy, health care, social services and more.
“VOA is a long-standing organization that has a history in this community and has a history providing quality housing opportunities,” Sebastian says. “A lot of non-low-income housing doesn’t come with all of these other services, … (and don’t) bring people who are committed to the well-being of the community in the same way that VOA and their services will.”
In addition, Sebastian points out that affordable housing is quality housing, something that’s sorely needed amid Sacramento’s soaring housing costs.
“Low-income housing is higher quality and has more regulations and maintenance required of it than any other form of housing,” she says. “Affordable housing, unlike market rate housing, by law because of the funding sources, has to provide things like lighting, staffing, parking, sustainable materials, energy-efficient features and greenspace.”
Unfortunately, not all community members are in support, objecting to what they perceive as increased traffic, parking and crime rates as threats to their home values. But according to a 2015 Stanford Graduate School of Business study, projects funded through low-income housing tax credits — such as the 1212 Village — can revitalize low-income neighborhoods and result in increased home prices, lower crime rates and be a catalyst for other development.
“When we start to weigh costs and benefits, impact and opportunity, there’s so much to be gained from this,” Sebastian explains. “I’m an affordable housing advocate, I spend a lot of my time telling people how not to do affordable housing. … Something like this, it’s such an easy, clear resounding benefit to the neighborhood.”
The costs to society of not providing affordable housing in good locations are great to our community, says Doug Snyder, vice president, regional real estate development for VOA National Services. Those costs include less strong-stabilized families, people potentially slipping down into homeless situations, and longer commutes to jobs resulting in increased pollution levels.
Adds Snyder, “Quality and stable affordable housing is the essential building block for individuals and families to stabilize their situation, grow personally/professionally and improve the quality of their lives.”