Work is nearing completion on a $17.5-million apartment complex in northeast Bakersfield offering 80 one-, two- and three-bedroom units to military veterans and others with incomes less than the area's median.
Residences at East Hills is being developed on the south side of Bernard Street west of Oswell Street by the Housing Authority of the County of Kern using money from a variety of sources, primarily state tax credits.
Set to accept its first tenants in September, the project is landing amid an extraordinarily tight housing market that has pushed single-family home prices and rents to record highs across Bakersfield.
Construction began a year ago at the site of a former private school. The Housing Authority's assistant executive director, Heather Kimmel, said the property was selected because it is zoned for multifamily residential, amenities are nearby and the previous owners listed it for sale. The agency reported paying $910,000 for it.
The eastern half of the property is being set aside for future development of homes for first-time buyers.
"We know that Kern County has a shortage of available affordable housing, with a local vacancy rate of approximately 1%," Kimmel said by email. "In addition, recent reports have shown that there have been zero rental vacancies in east Bakersfield for the last two quarters. Production of new housing is a long-term need for our community."
The Housing Authority and its affiliated nonprofits report having developed 275 new-construction affordable housing units during the last three years. There are 178 additional units under construction, not including Residences at East Hills, and 154 more units are awaiting funding before construction can begin.
Residency at the apartment complex is reserved for people with incomes no greater than 30 percent to 60 percent of the area's median income. Half the units are being reserved for veterans and their families. Three-quarters of all tenants must pay full rent; the remaining quarter will receive subsidized rent requiring them to pay just 30 percent of their income toward housing.
Rents for a one-bedroom unit will range between $336 and $672 per month. Two-bedrooms will go for $403 to $800 monthly, and three-bedroom units will cost from $465 to $900.
The project's construction loan was provided by Bank of America, which contributed $14.8 million in equity through the sale of tax credits apportioned by the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee. Financial support also came in the form of permanent loans from the California Department of Housing and Community Development, the city of Bakersfield, the California Community Reinvestment Corp. and the Housing Authority.
Kimmel wrote that a few neighbors initially expressed concerns about the project's size and wanted to know how it would be managed and how access to the site would be handled. The Housing Authority convened public meetings to address their concerns.
"I believe that we were able to address all their concerns and are excited to be a part of their neighborhood," she stated.
Homeowner Timothy Perkins said he has lived for 42 years on Shelley Lane just south of the development. He said Wednesday he recognizes the city's need for housing and that the new apartments don't bother him.
Neighbor Luis Torres took a different view. Worried about the apartments' traffic impacts — he's still unsure where the new residents will enter and exit the property — he said the property doesn't seem large enough to accommodate everything that's proposed there.
Torres said his wife doesn't care for the project at all. Although he's less critical, he is nervous about who will eventually move in "because who knows who's going to come and live there?"
Neighbor Rachel Perez was still more skeptical. With granddaughters and great-nieces using the backyard swimming pool, she said she worries about privacy, traffic and who her new neighbors will be.
"Now I'm going to have to put (in) security cameras," she said. "I'm going to have to put new lighting out there."
The Housing Authority is still accepting applications from potential tenants. Kimmel directed applicants to the agency's online portal, www.kernha.org. Alternatively, applications may be handled in person by calling Renee Richardson at 661-631-8500, extension 2307.