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Fountain Valley breaks ground on $29.6-million affordable housing project, its first in 16 years

Officials use shovels at a groundbreaking ceremony for Prado.
Fountain Valley Mayor Cheryl Brothers, third to left, and Related California CEO Bill Witte, third to right, and other elected officials toss shovels filled with dirt Monday during a ground-breaking ceremony for Prado, the city’s first affordable housing community to be developed in 16 years.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Construction on a 50-room affordable housing project in eastern Fountain Valley will get underway in December.

The project broke ground on Monday in a 1.95-acre parking lot located at 16790 S. Harbor Blvd., where low-income and extremely low-income families will be able to find housing when the Prado community is completed in February 2022. Eight of the units are designated as permanent supportive housing for veterans who are homeless or are at risk of homelessness.

This is the first such development in Fountain Valley in 16 years.

“We’re so happy that Related [California] is coming to do this project in Fountain Valley. They’re a top-rated affordable-housing builder and manager and that’s what we were looking for,” Mayor Cheryl Brothers said. “It took some negotiating and some work to get this project going, but we’re really, really pleased that they’re here."

City officials said the Fountain Valley Housing and Community Development Advisory Board invested $8.2 million into the development with funding allocated from its low-moderate income housing fund. Other financing was organized by Related California.

Fountain Valley Mayor Pro Tem Michael Vo takes pictures of Prado's renderings.
Fountain Valley Mayor Pro Tem Michael Vo takes pictures of Prado’s renderings. The city’s affordable housing community is expected to be completed in February 2022.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The total cost of the project, including the $6 million to purchase the land, is $29.6 million, according to city staff. This also includes the cost of construction.

“This is one of the best experiences we’ve had and that’s a testament to [Brothers] and the staff. It’s not simple. It’s not easy and every step of the way ... everything went smoothly. I really have to express our appreciation for that,” said Bill Witte, the chairman and chief executive officer for Related California.

“There is a mix. There [are] some homeless veterans here. There [are] also affordable families here. You won’t know the difference. It’s all going to be high-quality housing that happens to be affordable to these population groups,” said Witte, describing the efforts between developers and the state, county and city as a true partnership.

“We view ourselves as stakeholders in the community. Yes, there’s a brick-and-mortar side to this, but we expect to continue to interface with you ... when we have the opening and then onward after that so we become members of the Fountain Valley community,” Witte added.

Developers said the project would include four residential housing buildings and one community building with offices for property management and social services, the latter to be provided by nonprofit LifeSTEPS. On-site amenities will include a multipurpose room, a tot lot, a barbeque and picnic area, a community laundry area and outdoor spaces.

The 50 units will contribute to the city’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment numbers, which quantify the need for housing. Draft numbers currently have Fountain Valley on the hook for 4,827 units.

The city has filed an appeal with the Southern California Assn. of Governments. Other local cities such as Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Laguna Beach and Huntington Beach also filed an appeal of their RHNA numbers.

Fountain Valley Mayor Cheryl Brothers gives a thumbs-up from inside the cab of a backhoe.
Fountain Valley Mayor Cheryl Brothers gives a thumbs-up from inside the cab of a backhoe during a ground-breaking ceremony for Prado. The total cost of the project is $29.6 million, according to city staff.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

SCAG — which represents Orange, Los Angeles and four other Southern California counties — voted in November 2019 to shift more of the mandated 1.3 million new homes the state says Southern California needs over the next 10 years toward the coast.

The city is not required to directly build housing but must accommodate through zoning for residential development.

Costs for apartments vary depending on the number of bedrooms. Related California said that rent for a one-bedroom apartment could range from $618 to $1,441 and that rent for a two-bedroom apartment could be between $695 to $1,729.

“We’re excited about [the project]. There’s a need for affordable. In Southern California, it’s very hard to do with the price of housing. So, we were able to leverage some funding we had plus a whole bunch of buckets of money to make this happen,” City Manager Rob Houston said. “We’re excited to provide both housing for families, but also for previously homeless veterans.”

“We think it’s a good ability to have a space in Fountain Valley for people that need extra help with the cost of housing,” Houston added.

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