June 23, 2010 - From the June, 2010 issue

City of Irvine Sets Regional Example in Providing Quality Affordable Housing

Laura Archuleta is president of Jamboree Housing Corp. headquartered in Irvine. Jamboree's portfolio includes development and/or ownership interest of nearly 6,000 affordable homes in 55 California communities, with a market value exceeding $1 billion. In the following TPR op-ed, Ms. Archuleta praises Irvine, which, she argues, provides a model of municipal leadership in developing and building affordable housing for its residents by using three critical tools: inclusionary zoning, the city's Housing Strategy and Implementation Plan, and the Irvine Community Land Trust.


Laura Archuleta

For many cities, the planning and development of affordable housing can be a major challenge, especially in today's world. Providing for an adequate supply of quality affordable housing that serves a spectrum of socio-economic groups from extremely low to moderate income requires a committed collaboration involving landowners, builders, and the cities themselves. It also takes a robust affordable housing tool kit that includes the proper mix of programs, procedures, and resources to create and maintain an economic and community environment that is conducive to affordable housing development and welcoming to those people who occupy the housing.

Since its founding in 1990, Jamboree has developed a wide range of affordable housing for families, seniors, and special needs individuals throughout California. We currently have about $250 million of investment under construction and in pre-development. Most of the cities in which we are operating accept our developments with enthusiasm (more often than not, we are called by cities to work with their redevelopment and housing staffs) and in varying degrees have the necessary tools and resources to bring the projects to fruition.

One city that stands out and deserves recognition for its full commitment to affordable housing on all levels is the city of Irvine. The city's programs, procedures, and commitment of resources is instructive, at least from our perspective, for other cities that might be struggling to fulfill their affordable housing requirements or want to improve the effectiveness of their existing programs.

Jamboree today owns and manages nearly 800 units of affordable family and senior housing in Irvine, including our two newest workforce rental properties, Granite Court and The Arbor at Woodbury. The Irvine City Council also recently designated $2 million of redevelopment funds for the future development of a multifamily, affordable housing community to be built in the Irvine Company's new Village of Stonegate (the Irvine Company is the city's largest landowner). Construction of our new community, which will be developed in two phases, begins later this year.

Jamboree has had a close relationship with the city since our company was established 20 years ago, underscoring the city's long-standing commitment to provide quality affordable housing for its residents. But the city took a giant step to ensure that a diversity of affordable housing would be provided year after year when the city council adopted a model inclusionary zoning policy in 2003 that requires 15 percent of new housing to be affordably priced.

To further its commitment to a full spectrum of housing, the city and its redevelopment agency in March 2006 adopted a comprehensive Housing Strategy and Implementation Plan. The plan includes programs for land acquisition and negotiations with developers, obtaining funding sources to leverage city and redevelopment agency (RDA) funds, and a variety of programs to implement the city's housing goals and priorities.

The city took another big step in 2006 when it established the Irvine Community Land Trust, an independent entity that would work with the RDA to plan and develop the city's affordable housing inventory, both for-sale and rental. The RDA board believed a comprehensive housing program required a dedicated entity with the necessary resources for successful implementation over the long term.

Committed to Housing Residents

The city of Irvine's housing initiative and its commitment to a range of affordable and workforce housing has been lauded throughout the state and nation. Irvine's housing program was recognized by the Orange County Business Council, which ranks the city as the county's leader in its "Workforce Housing Scorecard." "(I)t is fitting that the city of Irvine, located in the center of the county, straddling coastal, inland, northern and southern areas of the county, was the city with the highest cumulative ranking.... Irvine's geographical advantage should take nothing away, however, from the city's long-standing commitment to balance job and housing growth," the scorecard states.

Providing a diversity of rental and for-sale housing has been a key component of both the city's housing growth strategy and, equally important today, its programs to nurture a healthy, expanding business environment. "One of the big challenges facing Orange County's business sector is still the high cost of housing, which forces many younger workers to move where housing prices are more affordable, which is frequently out of state," says Mark Asturias, the city of Irvine's Redevelopment and Housing Manager and also Executive Director of the Irvine Community Land Trust. "As much as possible, we want to keep those workers here."

The Orange County Business Council has projected that the county could lose up to 20 percent of its young adult population in the next 20 years, due mainly to the lack of entry-level housing in the county. "Losing these additional young workers hurts the county's businesses and threatens our future economic growth," states Lucy Dunn, OCBC president.

Advertisement

The Irvine Community Land Trust is a 501 (c) (3) organization whose mission it is to provide high-quality affordable housing at all levels from special needs to workforce housing. As a key element in the city's housing plan, the Land Trust will ensure housing affordability in perpetuity by owning the land on which the housing is built and leasing the land to builders for actual design and construction. By retaining ownership of land (either donated or purchased), the Trust is able to maintain housing affordability, control development, and also use earned equity to reinvest in additional housing.

The Land Trust is managed by a board of directors consisting of two Irvine City Council appointees and five at-large members. It is also structured to eventually be self-sustaining through a variety of public and private sources including revenues that would be generated from development services and leasehold fees charged for every for-sale home and apartment built on Trust land.

Becoming increasingly active, the Land Trust currently has funding from a Community Development Block Grant and HOME funds that it is using to purchase homes in Irvine that will be returned to the local market as affordable for-sale housing. Additionally, the Trust will acquire land, either through purchase or donation, that will be offered through the Trust to builders as leased land for development of affordable housing.

The Trust has already obtained a commitment for the donation of 15 acres from the Irvine Company, the city's largest landowner, which the Trust is now planning for future development. Asturias expects to see that happen in the next 2-3 years.

The Trust Going Forward

Going forward, the Trust, in collaboration with the Irvine RDA, will split its resources between for-sale and rental properties; it will provide the land to builders on a 99-year lease and will joint venture with the builders such as Jamboree on development projects. The RDA, through the Land Trust, will also have tight control over all aspects of the design including optimum sustainability as well as construction, sales/marketing, and management of the housing built on its land.

Asturias says this is to ensure that projects not only meet quality and energy efficiency standards, but also maintain the for-sale/rental balance that fulfills the RDA's and city's housing needs in the most cost-effective way. Also, for-sale homes will be sold only with traditional 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages and buyers will be required to attend homebuyer classes so they fully understand their responsibilities as a homeowner. "We want to ensure that our buyers don't purchase more home than they can afford," he notes.

Granted, builders will have to meet the RDA and Trust's strict development criteria, but by so doing Asturias says they will have certain advantages, such as faster approvals and, most likely, quicker turnaround from the time they pull permits to the completed projects, reducing the risk of potential construction delays, cost overruns, and lost revenue. "We believe this will be a much more effective approach to planning and developing affordable housing," Asturias explains. "It provides important controls that ensure that financing and RDA land resources are being used wisely and effectively."

The ultimate goal is to create a spectrum of housing that will allow a resident such as a young college graduate to live in Irvine his or her entire life if that's what they choose to do. They could start by living in an affordable apartment, move up to an affordable for-sale home, and continue to move up the housing ladder as far as they want and their resources will allow. "The Trust's purpose is to provide housing for people who want to live in Irvine, work here, raise a family here, and retire here," Asturias says.

With both expertise and resources concentrated in a single entity, the Irvine Community Land Trust, working in concert with the Irvine RDA, has the critical mass to achieve its mission of providing a wide range of affordably priced, quality housing for Irvine residents present and future. From an affordable housing developer's perspective, the Land Trust establishes a strong ally that can provide the assistance and resources necessary to successfully plan, build, and manage the best possible projects, with optimum efficiency and cost effectiveness.

<

Advertisement

© 2021 The Planning Report | David Abel, Publisher, ABL, Inc.