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November 1, 2009

Walnut Creek’s new affordable housing: At 555YVR


The November/December issue of Walnut Creek's newsletter, In a Nutshell, reports that five below-market-rate condominiums are available at 555YVR, the boutique residential development at 555 Ygnacio Valley Road.

But is there a backstory to this? Another blogger, WC Varones, who has been following the trials and tribulations of Walnut Creek’s luxury Mercer complex and now of 555YVR points out that whe 555YVR first opened, it was asking $700,000 for two-bedroom units and around $500,000 for 1-bedroom units. At the time it opened back in the spring, I myself asked whether, in this economic climate, a luxury condo development would sell well. By November, the Mercer, for example, had begun leasing out units to fill those that had been left unsold.

Now, according to the Nutshell, and SFGate's On the Block blog, 555 YVR is offering three 1-bedroom units for $133,000; one 2-bedroom unit for $148,000; and one live/work unit $135,000. The units are made possible through the City’s Below Market Rate program. Prospective buyers must be income-qualified, first-time home buyers within the past three years, and they will be selected through an application process. According to SFGate, household incomes of applicants cannot exceed $46,350 for one person, $53,000 for two, $59,600 for three and $66,250 for four people. But if you want to take advantage of this deal, you need to move fast. Applications must be turned in to 555 YVR by no later than 5 p.m. November 10.

This sounds like good news for people who, like Yours Truly, have jobs in low-paying professions. I’m not the sole breadwinner, but if I were, our family would most definitely qualify.
At the city-sponsored Community Conversation I attended, I expressed the view that the city needs housing that a fair number of people who work here can afford. By the way, according to the 2007 US Census, Walnut Creek’s median household income was $73,000. That’s not too far above the median household income that would qualify a family of four for one of these units in 555YVR.

The WC Varones blog, which initially tipped me off to this new affordable housing opportunity in Walnut Creek, raises the questions of what prompted this move. The blog notes that, based on this report on SFGate, that developments in other affluent communities in the Bay Area, such as in Marin County, are suddenly making affordable housing available to first-time homebuyers.

First Marin County, now Walnut Creek. Both communities -- neither of whose populaces are usually seen to be lacking in the greenbacks department -- have recently announced plans to accommodate lower income residents.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

someone on that other blog just posted that it was a requirement to offer 5 units for low income housing

Anonymous said...

yes that is true... only 5 units are available at these low prices if you qualify... not a big deal.

Anonymous said...

The affordable units at 555YVR are offered as part of the City's affordable housing program, and were required of the developer just as other housing developers are required to provide for affordable housing in Walnut Creek. You can learn more about the range of housing assistance programs that Walnut Creek offers by going to its web site and selecting "Housing" from the Quicklinks on the home page.

Soccer Mom said...

Anon 8:40 a.m. Thanks for that clarification.

You're right, the city does require some unts in new residential buildings to be "affordable."

People looking for affordable housing should pay attention to the city link you provided.

Otherwise, the affordable opportunities at 555YVR, or perhaps any other new development, would be hard to learn about. The development's website and Facebook pages do nothing to clearly promote it or advise people of it.

And I wonder why there are such tight deadlines for submitting a first-time buyer application. The original deadline was October 30; now it's November 10.

Does anyone know anything more about whether new developments have to notify the public about their low-income units? Or, is that left to the city?

Anonymous said...

City council members making it easy for their children to buy a house?

There must be a conspiracy here somewhere...

Anonymous said...

9:09 - actually perhaps you are onto something there... why not be transparent and announce it?

Anonymous said...

This is one time I must come to the defense of the City and the developers.

There is plenty of transparency on this usse from start to finish. As each project goes through the planning process, affordable housing is addressed in open forums and the print media.

There are plenty of housing advocates in the County and City who are aware of the units available and direct those that qualify to their location.

To insinuate that there is some "secret" being kept from the general public about low income/affordable housing availability is ridiculous.

Come on Mom, do your research before you impart incomplete information to those of us who follow you to get the "local" news.

Anonymous said...

The only time I see or hear anything about affordable housing is at council meetings. What are housing advocates and where can you find them? I'm sure there's no comission so realtors wouldn't be involved. If you were a first time buyer and went to the sales office at 555 Ygnacio, would they describe the "affordable housing" option?

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:35,

Why don't you go down there to 555 Ygnacio and find out for yourself?

Geez.

Soccer Mom said...

Sure, I could have approached this post differently, and made more mention of the city's Housing Division, which does list the 555YVR units on its webpage. However, I did mention a city program that makes these unit available for "low-income" residents.

Was the city hiding something? Was the developer hiding something? No, they weren't. Not officially. Not technically.

But, still I find it interesting that notice goes out about 555YVR "now accepting" applications on the city's website and in the Nutshell, with the deadline initially listed as October 30, and then as November 10.

Maybe it's me, but that doesn't seem like a whole lot of time to prepare or to make a major financial decision like this. Why DOES there have to be this kind of deadline?


The SFGate blog got a certain impression that this was a sudden decision--even though some of you have correctly pointed out that the affordable units were part of the plan all along.

Whatever.... I still think there was some kind of failure to communicate. Or to downplay this aspect of the development?

Yes, there was, technically, transparency on this issue, but no one was trumpeting he "affordable" units either.

As if it was shameful, or embarassing. Maybe not for the city, but for the developer.

Perhaps no one intended it to come across that way, but it does. To some of us anyway.

Affordable housing...ewww! What kind of riff-raff is that going to bring in? We don't want our OTHER prospective buyers to know.

Is that the mentality we're dealing with? I hope not.

The thing is, I think there are lot of honest, hard-working people who could benefit from this kind of opportunity for housing in our community.

With regard to affordable housing, from different reports I've come across by Bay Area business leaders and economic development associations, affordable housing is a big topic. The point is, any community cannot have LONG-TERM economic viability if it does not have housing to accmmodate a fair number of its workers. Talented, hard-working people will not want to relocate here if they cannot afford to live here.

Anonymous said...

Gee Mom, by "Talented, hard-working people will not want to relocate here if they cannot afford to live here" do you mean the bulk of our very own police officers and other city employees?

W.C. Varones said...

I wouldn't worry about missing out on the five "affordable units."

None of these places are going to sell at full price, and they'll all be available soon as affordable rentals. Why the need to buy, anyway? If you buy, you'll lock in several hundred dollars a month in HOA and property taxes that would go a long way toward paying the rent on the same unit.

Anonymous said...

Soccer Mom,
When I was growing up and going college, I rented (many times) and got jobs (several). Then I saved money for a down payment after I got my jobs (several) & established my career. Then we got a starter home.
I am one of the "wild-haired lefties" posting here. You gotta work for a nice place to live in places like this.
Commuting is an option, of course, but you have to set your sights for personal improvement. There really are no free rides. There are some options available for a few people for some help over the hump but not many.
Sorry if I sound too rough.

Anonymous said...

WC Varones: I agree... HOA's are a racket. I pay $315 for what? I don't exactly know. I can't wait til I walk away from this condo. So far, 9 months of "free rent." I suspect I'll be kicked out in 2 months. I've socked away thousands of dollars in these past 9 months.

SaraFina said...

It's clear that WCvarobes can;t afford to own a home. Can;t afford or even comprehend what HOA dues pay for. He/she wants someone to buy a house for him/her and has an ax to grind. Posts bogus stuff and you take his bait. Do a little research first. If you can't do that how do you ever expect to make sense of loan documents and buy a house? Below market rate home requirements are common all over the Bay Area. As for 555YVR, its a great addition to the neighborhood (we work down the street)and have seen people moving in all month, so they're obviously selling. Downtown WC needs more developments like it.

W.C. Varones said...

SaraFina,

If it comforts you to believe that the only reason someone wouldn't buy is that he can't, and not because price/rent ratios are so out of whack that buying makes absolutely no sense, then you are entitled to your delusion.

Anonymous said...

This is an obvious pander in order to ram the project through. Pretty excessive I think.

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Anonymous said...

Low Income Apartments is a term used to describe dwelling units whose total housing costs are deemed "affordable" to those that have a median income. Although the term is often applied to rental housing that is within the financial means of those in the lower income ranges of a geographical area, the concept is applicable to both renters and purchasers in all income ranges. This article focuses on the affordability of owner-occupied and private rental housing as social housing is a specialised tenure.