A life-changing home for homeless, working poor
A proposal is in the works to create one of the largest permanent supportive housing projects in the city.
The $41 million building at Seventh and H streets also is poised to become the city’s newest single-resident occupancy, or SRO, structure. The infill project would feature sustainable design and materials, so the developers and architects will ask the U.S. Green Building Council to certify it as a sustainable building.
But perhaps most unique about the public-private project being developed by Mercy Housing and the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency is that it would offer support services to formerly homeless people in innovative and mixed-population permanent housing. Its architects are Mogavero Notestine Associates of Sacramento and SERA Architects of Portland.
Half of the mid-rise’s 150 units will be set aside as for homeless people. The other half will become home to the working poor: low-income workers who earn 40 percent to 50 percent of the median income, or $20,000 to $25,000 a year.
The 7th and H Mixed-Use Affordable Housing project differs from transitional housing, such as Mercy Housing’s Quinn Cottages, which provide up to two years of transitional housing close to downtown.
"We (represent) that next step, to what is now permanent supportive housing. You don’t have to leave," said Rich Ciraulo, project manager for Mercy Housing in West Sacramento. "Instead, you are put in an environment where there are a lot of supportive services and community building, and an attempt to really support your reconnection to the rest of society."
Supportive programs will focus on health, education, community integration and finances.
An on-site 3,800-square-foot, federally qualified health clinic will serve residents and the public. The Effort, a Sacramento nonprofit health services provider, will operate primary health and behavioral health services.
Doctors, nurses and physician assistants will provide health screenings, immunizations, lab work and other medical care. At least one licensed clinical social worker will provide therapeutic counseling and recovery support groups will have a space to meet.
Mercy Services Corporation will handle property management. Three on-site resident service coordinators, working as case managers, will connect tenants with community resources and on-site services.
By working with other service organizations, the service coordinators will identify people who qualify as homeless. They would come directly from transitional housing, including emergency shelters, or off the street. Tenants for other units would have to qualify based on income, Ciraulo said.
Two property managers will also work on site. The building’s entrance will be secure, with tenants and guests checking in with 24-hour front desk clerks.
Residents will have access to tutoring, computer classes and leadership training, as well as career counseling and financial literacy and planning. They also will have opportunities to work within the broader community via volunteering, community watch groups and other programs. An on-site job-training program is being explored, Ciraulo said.
Public spaces are vital for building a sense of community and encouraging people to get out of their units and interact with neighbors, he said.
Inside, the project’s public-space centerpiece will be a community room with an adjacent communal kitchen — a large gathering place where residents can hang out and bond at events like Thanksgiving dinner. Three smaller lounges will be on alternating floors of the eight-story building.
"You really want to feel like you’re invested in where you live and who your neighbors are, and like this is a very special place to live," Ciraulo said.
Outside public spaces also will improve residents’ quality of life and give them access to fresh air in private settings, he said. Two second-floor roof gardens will be for residents’ exclusive use. Each lounge will have a balcony facing Seventh Street.
The building also will have a computer room. While some money has been budgeted for equipment, Mercy Housing is trying to get computers donated.
Mercy is proposing ground-floor retail such as a cafe or bakery, that would be an amenity to the neighborhood, Ciraulo said.
The project is being designed to fill a gap in care for homeless people who were getting help with health, mental health and substance abuse issues while on the street. Tenants will be able to receive those services onsite instead or be connected with new services.
"It’s really critical that services are matched if you’re trying to house homeless or formerly homeless people," said Tim Brown, director of Sacramento Steps Forward, a nonprofit formerly known as the Ending Chronic Homelessness Initiative.
The project also is designed to help people working at low-wage jobs downtown by providing housing close to their jobs, Ciraulo said.
Sacramento has some mixed-population, supportive-housing developments, such as one near Arden Fair Mall. This one is being modeled after Portland’s Richard L. Harris Building at 8 NW 8th St., which has won awards for affordable housing innovations and integrating housing and social services. SERA Architects designed that project.
The building is intended to create 122 of the 200 SRO units the city must replace by 2011, under its own ordinance, said Christine Weichert, assistant director of housing and community development for SHRA.
Sitting behind the Sacramento County Jail, the project at Seventh and H streets would include 122 studios measuring 325 square feet that rent for $206 to $581, and 28 one-bedroom units for $207 to $619. Both would have full kitchens and bathrooms, unlike standard SROs, which usually have kitchenettes and communal bathrooms, Ciraulo said.
Rent will be income-based. Mercy Housing will target people on Social Security or disability for most units. Whether tenants are formerly homeless or low-wage workers, they will pay 30 percent of their income, he said.
In the 1970s, Sacramento had about 3,000 SRO units. A 2006 city ordinance called for no net loss of the remaining 712 SRO units.
"Preservation of the SROs is vital to including a much-needed piece in the housing continuum," said Sandra Hamameh, program director for the Sacramento Housing Alliance.
Proposals call for the project to be largely publicly funded. Mercy, which is quite possibly the largest provider of service-enriched housing in the area, and SHRA are going after local, state and federal funding, including highly competitive federal tax credits, Weichert said.
Several sources will pay for services, including public funding and fund raising. Community services will be used as much as possible, and some services — such as those for resident service coordinators — will be integrated into the building’s operating budget. About 15 percent of the operating costs would be set aside for services, Ciraulo said.
The city’s Planning Commission is set to give final approval to the project May 6. The Sacramento City Council is expected to be asked to provide some funding at a June meeting, said Weichert, adding that the amount will be determined within two weeks.
Developers hope to have financing in place by September. If so, construction could begin by February. The building would be expected to open by October 2013.
With its mix of housing and support services, the project would keep a wider range of people with different income levels downtown, said Robert Tobin, president and chief executive officer of Cottage Housing, which operates the Quinn Cottages at 16th and North A streets.
"This is a population that is vulnerable," he said. "It really helps if you can have some support on site."
Graphic provided by Mercy Housing. Suzanne Hurt is a staff reporter covering business and development for The Sacramento Press.
Read more about what defines affordable housing here