Santa Ana commits to low-cost artist housing with new downtown development


If you rent a home, condo or apartment in Orange County, you’re painfully aware that you live in one of the most expensive markets in the country.

According to RentCafe, which tracks the price of rental properties all over the U.S., just 31% of Orange County’s rental units are classified as “affordable” — in other words, they cost less than 30% of a typical renter’s household income. In 2018, the average O.C. tenant paid a median rent of $1,786 per month, almost 35% of the average monthly gross income of $5,125. Nationwide, about half of all rental units are affordable.

Most artists scrape by on far less than O.C.’s median income. If you’re a painter, writer, dancer or musician, simply paying the rent on a modest place is a sign of considerable success in your field.

In its continuing effort to attract the creative professions to its redeveloping downtown core, the city of Santa Ana, in partnership with several private companies, will soon provide affordable housing for artists and their families. The Santa Ana Arts Collective, a 58-unit apartment building at 1666 N. Main St., is scheduled to open in November.

The renovated five-story commercial structure will feature a mix of studios, one- two- and three-bedroom units. The ground floor of the former bank will be dominated by an art gallery and garden that will display the work of local artists and residents of the apartment community. In addition to the renovated structure, the project includes three new buildings, a courtyard and new landscaping. L.A.’s Meta Housing Corp. is the developer, with leasing provided by Irvine’s WSH Management.

“We have other affordable housing projects, but to my knowledge this is the only one that is targeting artists specifically,” said Daisy Perez, senior management assistant for the city of Santa Ana.

Perez added that artists who already live in Santa Ana will be considered first, although nonresidents are invited to apply. Applicants must meet strict rules concerning maximum annual income: Households earning between 30% (20 units), 35% (six units), 40% (six units) and 60% (25 units) of the area median income will be eligible for consideration.

Perez said the city had invested a total of $7.9 million in the project.

“They are in the final stages of construction, and my understanding is that they are on schedule,” Perez said.

A tax-exempt bond of $10 million was issued in 2017 to help with financing the project, which cost a total of $26.5 million.

Paul Hodgins is the senior editor of Arts & Culture at Voice of OC. He can be reached at

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