Award of Excellence: Oakwood Senior Apartments
The Housing Authority of the City of Santa Paula (SPHA) wins a 2017 Award of Excellence in Client and Resident Services for the Oakwood Senior Apartments, which expanded the community’s supply of assisted housing by building new independent living senior apartments. Nominated from among the NAHRO Award of Merit winners each year, the Awards of Excellence winners are chosen by national juries and honored at the annual National Conference and Exhibition in October. They represent the very best in innovative programs in assisted housing and community development.
Santa Paula is a small agricultural city in California without many opportunities for employment and economic growth for its residents. The area also lacks affordable housing options; since there’s a lack of private developers in the area who can build affordable housing units, the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Paula (SPHA) provides most of the area’s affordable housing. Their waitlist has grown to more than 1,300 families and almost 400 senior and/or disabled persons in need of affordable housing assistance.
SPHA’s strategy for addressing the housing needs in their community was to apply for available Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV), construct additional affordable housing utilizing the Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), use bond financing and other funds, and partner with local nonprofit organizations to increase Santa Paula’s supply of affordable housing.
They outlined three goals to improve access to affordable housing in their area:
Manage the SPHA’s tenant-based voucher program efficiently to qualify as a high performer under Section 8 Management Assessment Program (SEMAP) – this entails sustaining a utilization rate of 99 percent by the end of 2020.
Expand the range and quality of housing choices available to participate in Santa Paula’s tenant-based assistance program by attracting at least 25 new landlords by the end of 2020.
Assist with increasing the availability of affordable suitable housing for families in the low-income range cited as a need in the Consolidated Plan by leveraging funds to acquire 25 affordable rentals by the end of 2020.
SPHA built the Oakwood Senior Apartments to help achieve their goals and to address the growing need for affordable housing for seniors in their community. Local planners wanted an affordable housing development that followed a smart growth model, was beautifully designed and compatible with the existing neighborhood to maintain a “small town” feel. SPHA followed their advice and built eight one-story senior apartments, designed to resemble “cozy cottages” with private backyards and a vinyl-enclosed concrete patio. Seniors have access to an on-site community room which provides space for health and wellness activities, Wi-Fi access, and for social gatherings to foster a sense of community among residents.
SPHA was also conscious of the project’s environmental impact. All the units feature energy-efficient lighting and windows, low-flow plumbing fixtures, EnergyStar appliances, and low-VOC paints. Santa Paula is a rural area that lacks strong public transportation, so it was important to SPHA that the Oakwood Apartments be within walking distance to the downtown corridor, where retail shopping, public parks, and other amenities are all easily accessible.
In building the Oakwood Senior Apartments, SPHA transformed a dilapidated church into a development that helps fight community blight and positively impacts the surrounding neighborhood. And the project has spurred further affordable housing initiatives. The success of the Oakwood apartments lead SPHA to start building another senior housing development, the Citricos Senior Apartments.