By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Twenty units of affordable housing will be built in the largest subdivision under construction in Santa Rosa — they just won’t be as affordable as the city hoped.
The Santa Rosa City Council, in a reversal of a decision last month, on Tuesday approved a plan by Meritage Homes to build 11 units of affordable housing in the second phase of its 162-unit Daunhauer Ranch subdivision in southeast section of the city.
“It is time to do it,” Councilman Jake Ours said. “It’s been way too long these lots have been sitting.”
Council members rejected the same plan last month because they said the units didn’t seem very affordable if a family of four making $99,100 qualified to buy them. Ours in May called the change a “bait-and-switch” that would not bring the city the low and very-low income units originally envisioned for the site.
The council gave Meritage Homes and the original developer of the property, Keith Christopherson, a month to find a way to get the low and very-low income apartments built on adjacent property Christopherson still owns.
But Christopherson, who was preparing to build the subdivision when housing prices plummeted in 2008, said the affordable apartment complex piece of the project doesn’t pencil out on its own.
“It’s a tough deal,” said Christopherson, once the county’s largest homebuilder. “We’ve just got a large financing gap we’ve got to make up.”
The city approved Christopherson Homes’ Daunhauer Ranch subdivision on Aston Avenue in 2003. Because the project was more than 15 acres, the city required 24 of the units be built on-site as a low-income apartment complex. A separate entity, Alderbrook Properties, was established to develop the affordable units.
Christopherson Homes defaulted on the main portion of the property when the housing market collapsed. In 2010 Meritage Homes bought the main property from Wells Fargo Bank, but it did not purchase the parcel approved for the affordable units.
Unsure when Christopherson would be able to complete the affordable units as required, city staff worked a compromise with Meritage that allowed the developer to set aside some units for moderate-income families in the interim.
Housing advocate David Grabill, like he did last month, encouraged the council to “to hold their feet to the fire” and force Meritage Homes and Christopherson into somehow building the affordable units.
Councilwoman Julie Combs said she was “very sad” not to see more affordable units being built. “We have a desperate need for low and very-low (units) and I’m not seeing it come forward,” she said.
She added that the city was “flying on blind faith” that the affordable apartments would someday be build.
But other council members agreed it was time to allow Meritage to proceed with the compromise project, which would create construction jobs and some semblance of affordable housing.
“This looks to be the best solution that we can hope for going forward,” Councilwoman Robin Swinth said.
The council voted 4-2 to approve the plan, with Ernesto Olivares, Gary Wysocky, Ours and Swinth in favor and Combs and Vice Mayor Erin Carlstrom against.
Asked after the meeting when he thought he would be able to build the apartments, Christopherson replied: “Probably never.”
You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or email@example.com. On Twitter@citybeater.