H.B. City Council moves to advance potential affordable-housing development and funding

Property at 17631 Cameron Lane that the Huntington Beach City Council gave staff the go-ahead to buy includes a historic Wintersburg home. The city says the site could be used to help meet the city's affordable-housing needs.
Property at 17631 Cameron Lane that the Huntington Beach City Council gave staff the go-ahead to buy includes a historic Wintersburg home. The city says the site could be used to help meet the city’s affordable-housing needs.
(Daily Pilot)

The Huntington Beach City Council took actions Tuesday night that could pave the way for affordable-housing opportunities in the city.

The council voted unanimously to give city staff the go-ahead to buy a property at 17631 Cameron Lane from Shigeru and Mitsuru Yamada and approved the use of about $3.16 million for the transaction. The property includes an unoccupied wood-frame home built in 1947 and designated as historic because it was part of a tract of land that became the Wintersburg area.

The property makes up half of a 1.56-acre plot south of Slater Avenue that the city has identified as one of six parcels that could be developed to meet the number of low-income housing units the state says the city needs to plan for.

The council Tuesday also authorized staff to write an agreement to acquire the adjacent property at 17642 Beach Blvd. from the same owners and appropriate $3.25 million for it.

Together, the sites could accommodate up to 79 residential units, according to assessments.

The City Council authorized buying the Cameron site for about $3.08 million. An additional $61,540 would go toward broker commission and $21,000 toward due-diligence studies, according to a staff report.

The funds for the purchase would come from the city’s restricted Low-Moderate Income Housing Asset Fund, which the city projects will total about $4.5 million by the end of the fiscal year. The city could lose about $3 million to the state in “excess surplus” if the money goes unused by the end of June, the staff report said.

City Manager Oliver Chi called the proposed purchase a “serendipitous opportunity that I think makes sense.”

Huntington Beach is required to develop property acquired using the restricted funds within a reasonable period — about five years, according to Community Development Director Ursula Luna-Reynosa — after which it would be required to sell the property and return the money to the state, staff said.

Huntington Beach votes to join O.C. Housing Finance Trust

The City Council voted 6-1, with Councilman Erik Peterson dissenting, to join the Orange County Housing Finance Trust.

The Housing Finance Trust was formed last year by the county Board of Supervisors as a joint powers authority of Orange County and area cities. It released its first notice of funds available in January, totaling more than $11 million.

Peterson said $11 million is a small sum for large development projects.

Housing Finance Trust manager Adam Eliason said development projects are encouraged to get funding from multiple sources and that the trust is just one “layer.” First-year funding was entirely underwritten by the county, and the trust looks to gain private funding in the future, along with contributions from member cities, he said.

“How do you keep politics out of this?” Mayor Lyn Semeta asked.

Eliason said funding is dispersed evenly across three service planning areas to prevent a concentration of funding.

Applicants are evaluated based on a scoring system that considers a project’s location, the developer’s experience and whether the proposal has a strong service plan to support clients.

“This is a regional solution to a problem that is enormous,” Councilwoman Barbara Delgleize said.

The item, along with the acquisition of the Cameron Lane property, had vocal support from community members Tuesday.

“I urge you to vote yes. … To fight and prevent homelessness, we definitely need more affordable-housing units,” Jenny Braithwaite said.

“The senior population is a growing segment of the homeless population. I know I’m interested in finding a way to deal with people living in their cars,” said Shammy Dingus, a member of Huntington Beach Homeless United.

To join the Housing Finance Trust, Huntington Beach would have to contribute about $21,000 per year, based on its designation as a large city, according to a presentation by city staff. However, that amount doesn’t account for the trust’s latest member, Lake Forest, or Huntington Beach. So the growth presumably could lower Huntington’s share.

Luna-Reynosa said the cost “would be stable unless there is a large exodus of cities.”

The move to join was spurred by a request from Jamboree Housing Corp. In January the Irvine-based nonprofit developer closed on the purchase of 18431 Beach Blvd., where it has proposed affordable housing for low-income senior citizens. The purchase was made with the help of a $3-million loan from the city. Jamboree asked the city to join the Housing Finance Trust so the Beach Boulevard project might qualify for funds.

“The challenge remains that affordable housing is hard and incredibly difficult to build,” Jamboree’s Tung Tran told the council. “Structural barriers exist ... but the one that can be addressed tonight is financial barriers.”

Peterson, however, said, “I’m just not really a fan of these regional groups.”

Despite community interest in moving forward on affordable-housing projects, some people also urged the council to consider middle-class housing needs.

“My millennial children are unfortunately all moving out of Huntington Beach because they can’t afford to live here,” Eliason said, echoing community members who wanted the council to address the “missing middle.”

“It’s wonderful that we are bringing money to pay for low and very low income, but we are missing out on that middle housing,” said Elizabeth Hansburg, a member of People for Housing Orange County. “We are going to become the land of the hyper-wealthy and the hyper-subsidized, and I don’t want to live in that place. I want to live in a place where everyone has a place.”

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