In an effort to boost the number of affordable housing units available in North Fair Oaks, officials and developers broke ground Thursday on a 67-unit apartment complex at 2821 El Camino Real expected to become home to veterans, low-income families and those with developmental disabilities.

Expected to provide 61 studios, five one-bedroom apartments and one two-bedroom unit on a stretch of El Camino Real bounded by Berkshire and Dumbarton avenues, the project is one of the first in San Mateo County to benefit from a streamlined approval process for affordable housing under Senate Bill 35, said Supervisor Don Horsley.

Also one of several projects benefiting from millions in county funds designated to support efforts to build affordable housing, Horsley was glad to see the developer, Palo Alto Housing, get a start on its first project in the North Fair Oaks neighborhood. Having previously served as San Mateo County sheriff, Horsley is familiar with the challenges many face to maintain housing as the region’s cost of living has risen and hoped the project could be a model for other affordable housing developments.

“We’ve got to maintain the diversity, the only way to do that is to build affordable housing,” he said. “What we really are trying to do is to make sure that people who are mostly service workers in this community are able to stay in the community.”

By making the units affordable to incomes that are up to 70 percent of the area median income of $118,400 for a family of four, the project is expected to serve a wide array of residents and also provide on-site services such as job readiness programs, educational assistance and counseling. Randy Tsuda, Palo Alto Housing’s CEO, explained tailoring on-site services for residents living in the communities the nonprofit builds is a model Palo Alto Housing has developed in other projects throughout Santa Clara County.

As a partner in providing some of the on-site services to be offered at the development, Melissa Platte, executive director of the Mental Health Association of San Mateo County, was excited to see the nonprofit developer include so many different kinds of units in the project. In 2017, MHA broke ground on an apartment complex less than half a mile away from Palo Alto Housing’s project and aimed at providing services supporting 15 individuals with serious mental illnesses.

Having seen developments increasingly include on-site services, Platte looked to the services provided at the 2821 El Camino Real apartment complex to help residents hold onto housing by connecting them with key service providers and resources.

“Getting housing is only half the battle,” she said. “It’s the keeping the housing that really makes all the difference.”

For Supervisor Warren Slocum, seeing the project leverage a portion of the more than $100 million county officials have committed to affordable housing projects — in large part through the voted-approved sales tax Measure K — was an encouraging step in the right direction as officials continue to focus on addressing the regional housing shortage. Slocum noted the jobs to housing ratio when the county’s Home For All initiative, which gathers housing resources and information, started four years ago was 24 to 1 and has since dropped to 12 to 1.

Horsley said a $3.5 million loan from the Housing Endowment and Regional Trust of San Mateo County, or HEART, supported the purchasing of the property where the complex stands. The California Community Reinvestment Corporation, the Federal Home Loan Bank in San Francisco and Wells Fargo Bank also supported financing for the $42 million development.

After many months of designing and financing the project, Tsuda was encouraged to see the development begin to take shape and serve residents of the community.

“Any time we have a groundbreaking on a new affordable housing community … we begin to see what this is all about, what the mission is all about [and] how important these types of projects are for the community.”

Construction is scheduled to be completed in 18 months, by fall 2020. Email your name and contact information to [email protected] to receive an email when the property begins accepting applications for the wait list.

[email protected]

(650) 344-5200 ext. 106

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