Garnet Lane Project to Begin Next Month

After two years of debate and delay, a nonprofit organization next month will begin a controversial rehabilitation project on Garnet Lane.

The group, La Habra Neighborhood Housing Services, will buy 20 rundown apartment units and convert them into an 18-unit affordable housing community with six three-bedroom units, 12 two-bedroom units and a playground.

Rents will range from $400 to $878 a month for the units, targeted to tenants with annual incomes of about $25,000.

Several landlords and residents have praised the project, saying it will boost surrounding property values and provide affordable housing so that families won't be forced to crowd into apartments.

Critics say they oppose the project, however, because the property will be taken off tax rolls for as long as 99 years.

Despite the opposition, City Council members this week voted 4 to 1 to approve the project by the La Habra-based group, which has similar projects in that city. The action included a $565,000 loan from the city's federal funds earmarked for low-income housing projects.

The apartment complexes in northeast Fullerton are overcrowded, officials said, and residents there have complained that the rents are too high and that criminal activity is abundant.

The problems have persisted, project proponents say, despite efforts by the city to make negligent landlords correct code violations.

"We can make a difference on that block," said Glenn Hayes, executive director of La Habra Neighborhood Housing Services.

Resident Foster Kinney said the project will set an example and inspire other property owners to spruce up their buildings.

Mayor Chris Norby, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said he did so because the city will lose property tax revenue and because the loan funds come from the federal government. Such projects, he said, "add to the federal deficit."

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