USA Properties, April Housing host luncheon to celebrate and connect with residents at Vintage Hills in Reno

April Housing and USA Properties Fund recently helped senior residents celebrate each other, their accomplishments and getting back to normal.

The companies held a Resident Appreciation Luncheon on Oct. 25 for residents at Vintage Hills Senior Apartments, an affordable apartment community in Reno.

Many residents of the 200-apartment community attended the half-day event that included lunch, live music and numerous activities.

Getting back to normal

More than 20 team members from April Housing and USA Properties – including company Presidents Alice Carr and Geoff Brown, respectively – attended the event, helped serve lunch and met with residents.

“The event allowed us to connect with residents, get to know them better and express our appreciation for making Vintage Hills such a special community,” Brown said.

Like many others nationwide, the apartment community’s residents have delayed get-togethers because of health guidelines and a commitment to keeping each other safe during the peak of the COVID pandemic. In some ways, the Resident Appreciation Luncheon was a bit of a getting-back-to-normal celebration.

The luncheon was also a way to connect with residents and see what they need, said Ingrid Kim, Vice President of April Housing.

“We wanted to talk with them and find out what’s going to be the most helpful for them,” Kim said. “It was also an opportunity to thank them for taking great care of the property.”

Construction starts on Adega II in Rohnert Park, with some apartments reserved for moderate-income residents

Luxury apartment community offers a long list of amenities, including clubroom, saltwater pool and spa, and EV charging stations

USA Properties Fund has started construction on Adega II, the second phase of a luxury apartment community that will include seven units for moderate-income residents and help meet the need for more housing in Sonoma County.

The Adega apartment community – located at 541 Carlson Avenue, a few blocks west of Highway 101 and just north of the Rohnert Park Expressway – is part of the Five Creek subdivision in the former Rohnert Park Stadium neighborhood.

Adega is close to numerous stores – including Costco, Target and Walmart – dozens of local and national chain restaurants, several health providers and a community park built by USA Properties.

Adega II will add 74 apartments, including the seven reserved for moderate-income residents earning 110% or less of the median income for Sonoma County – or about $99,275 for a two-person household.

Those seven apartments reserved for moderate-income households could be home to early-in-career professionals, such as government employees or teachers, hard-working families with children saving for their first home or retirees living on a fixed income.

“The City of Rohnert Park takes the housing needs of our community seriously,” said Mayor Jackie Elward, adding the city has approved building permits for 1,800 apartments since 2015, including 300 for low-income residents. “We want everyone in our community to have a safe and affordable place to call home. For that reason, the city requires that developers set aside housing affordable to lower-income households in the larger market-rate developments.”

10 APARTMENT COMMUNITIES IN WINE COUNTRY

It’s a commitment that USA Properties applauds and embraces. The company already has nine apartment communities in Sonoma County, including eight affordable communities. Another affordable apartment community is in nearby Napa.

“We’ve enjoyed tremendous success in the region, developing strong relationships with the cities and providing much-needed quality housing for residents,” said Geoff Brown, President of USA Properties. “We are looking forward to the evolution of the Stadium neighborhood, and continuing to play a part in its transformation.”

Construction on the second phase of Adega has already started and should be completed in late 2024. When completed, the Adega apartment community – the first and second phases combined – will have a total of 209 homes.

Rohnert Park, like many communities in the North Bay, has attracted the attention of residents able to work from home who are seeking lower-priced housing and more space, especially compared to San Francisco and San Jose.

Adega I, with larger-than-average apartments and a long list of amenities, has “performed very well,” with a faster-than-expected lease up after opening in early 2021, said Milo Terzich, Vice President of Development for USA Properties. The company expects similar interest for the $20.7 million Adega II development.

BIGGER APARTMENTS, A LONG LIST OF AMENITIES AND FEATURES

The Adega community offers one- to three-bedroom apartments, with units ranging from 780 to 1,428 square feet – about 30% larger than the average comparable-sized unit in California, respectively, according to RENTCafe.

While apartment size matters for residents, so do amenities and features. Adega checks those boxes as well.

Adega apartments include wood plank flooring, Energy Star stainless-steel appliances, Quartz countertops, automatic roll-down window shades, and full-size washers and dryers. A limited number of garages are available for residents.

The combined apartment communities will share a clubroom with a catering kitchen and fireplace; a saltwater pool and spa; a fitness room; an outdoor lounge area with fireplaces and firepits; an outdoor kitchen with barbecues; a dog park and pet wash area; and electric vehicle charging stations.

(Photos of amenities in the following photo gallery are from the adjacent Adega I, and are available for residents in Adega II to enjoy.)

Adega amenities

USA Properties is dedicated to investing the “time and attention to the resident experience,” Terzich said. “We think long and hard about every door knob and light switch.”

Adega is the latest project for USA Properties Fund, one of the West’s largest affordable apartment community developer-owner-managers. The Roseville, Calif.-based company has more than 20 apartment communities – with a combined 3,000 units – in various phases of development.

“Each apartment community, every apartment home is critical in meeting the need for more housing,” Brown said. “And every door opens a new opportunity for residents.”

 

USA accepting applications for Virginia Street Studios in San Jose

USA Properties Fund has started accepting applications for Virginia Street Studios, a soon-to-open affordable apartment community for residents at least 55 years old looking to right-size and enjoy a maintenance-free lifestyle with a long list of amenities, including a community room and rooftop deck.

When completed in November, Virginia Street Studios will become the largest affordable apartment community for seniors in San Jose – and one of only a few modular construction multifamily projects in Silicon Valley, which cuts construction costs and the timeline.

“There is such a great need for affordable housing in the Bay Area, especially in San Jose,” said Sara Goldstein, Senior Asset Manager for The Pacific Companies. The Eagle, Idaho-based company is the developer of Virginia Street Studios, and has two other affordable apartment communities in San Jose. “Modular construction was a good option for Virginia Street Studios, and helps open the door to housing quicker for residents.”

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ENJOYING EVERYTHING OUR DOWNTOWN HAS TO OFFER’

From empty-nesters and retirees dreaming of downsizing to hardworking employees seeking a closer-to-work and lower-cost housing option, Virginia Street Studios could be just the right fit.

The 301-apartment community – located at 295 E. Virginia Street, at the intersection of Seventh Street – is just a few blocks from downtown and close to several neighborhood markets, dozens of restaurants, San Jose State University and a Walmart Supercenter.

“As we look to provide more housing options for our aging residents, projects like Virginia Street Studios can serve as a model for future developments,” said San Jose City Councilmember Raul Peralez, whose district includes Virginia Street Studios. “The location, amenities and cost of the units will allow these residents to continue to live in our growing city and enjoy everything our downtown has to offer.”

San Jose City Councilmember Raul Peralez

Virginia Street Studios also has easy access to Freeways 101, 280 and 87, and the Valley Transportation Authority bus and light-rail system that connects with Bay Area Rapid Transit at the Berryessa Transit Center.

“Virginia Street Studios is centrally located, whether you want to enjoy the neighborhood or the entire Bay Area, and has everything residents need,” said Angie Watson, Regional Manager for USA Properties Fund.

AMENITIES WITH A VIEW

It’s affordable and amenities-rich living in the heart of Silicon Valley – without the hefty rent. More than one of every three (34%) of renters in San Jose spend at least 30% of their income on housing, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.

Virginia Street Studios is below that level, allowing low-income residents to spend less on rent, especially critical as the cost of everything, from food to gas, continues to increase at a historic pace.

Residents who earn 50% to 60% of the area median income for Santa Clara County – about $59,000 to $71,000 for a two-person household – are eligible for Virginia Street Studios. The studios rent for $1,436 to $1,600 per month, hundreds of dollars less than nearby market-rate apartment communities with studios, according to industry tracker Zumper.

But affordable is far from basic – or boring.

Apartments feature air conditioning, a ceiling fan, full-size appliances and vinyl plank flooring.  

And residents have access to a long list of community amenities, including a community room, fitness room, a picnic area with barbecues, a second-floor courtyard, and a seventh-floor rooftop deck with seating areas. The apartment community also has on-site laundry facilities, multiple elevators and controlled access for security.

LARGER LIFE IN A SMALL SPACE

But the best amenity could be enjoying a larger life in a smaller space, without the maintenance and yard work.

“Living in a studio is really about decluttering and simplifying your life, and focusing on what you want to do rather than what you have to do,” Watson said. “It’s also about changing your idea of home. The apartment is where you cook, shower and sleep. But the entire building should feel like home, since there are so many things to enjoy and some great spaces to hang out and relax.”

USA Properties is the property manager and an investor-partner of Virginia Street Studios along with The Pacific Companies and Autovol.

Nampa, Idaho-based Autovol combines highly skilled construction industry employees with robotic automation for next-generation modular construction. The company’s crews design and build sections of Virginia Street Studios at the Autovol factory and are then shipped about 670 miles to the site. “Automation and robotics will lead the world into the future of housing,” said Rick Murdock, Chief Executive Officer of Autovol. “Our investors and employees leaned in with lots of confidence, and now we’re seeing great results.”

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Rendering showing the exterior of Virginia Street Studios, currently under construction in San Jose, CA

USA Properties expands to Monterey County with Terracina at the Dunes in Marina

USA Properties Fund has started construction on Terracina at the Dunes, an affordable apartment community in Marina that will provide much-needed housing to residents that earn a range of incomes under a state program.

The 140-apartment community will have two locations – at Imjin Parkway and 4th Avenue, and 2nd Avenue and 5th Street – that will be home to early-in-their career professionals saving for their first home to retirees living on a fixed income. The apartment communities are less than a mile apart and will share the name and staff, but each will have its own amenities, including community and fitness rooms. 

Terracina at The Dunes is the first apartment community for USA Properties in Monterey County and part of The Dunes master-planned community, a 1,237-home development on the former Fort Ord by Marina Community Partners. The Dunes features a large shopping center – including Target, Kohl’s, Bed Bath & Beyond and Old Navy stores – neighborhood restaurants and a movie theater.

“It’s a beautiful master-planned community in a high-cost market – in a coastal location,” said Jatin Malhotra, Vice President of Acquisitions for USA Properties.

The beach is just a few blocks away, along with California State University-Monterey Bay, several parks and numerous schools, including Marina High School.

USA Properties Fund acquired the two parcels, 6.5 acres in total, from Marina Community Partners LLC for a nominal fee. Marina Community Partners also provided USA Properties with almost $8 million to subsidize the development of Terracina at the Dunes and make affordable housing a reality. Without the subsidy, construction of the Terracina at the Dunes would not be possible.

“Marina Community Partners is proud to join with USA Properties Fund to provide a range of housing affordability at The Dunes,” said Don Hofer, Vice President for Shea Homes and Marina Community Partners. “The Terracina at The Dunes community will provide much-needed housing for those who work in the community or those who prefer to live close to the amenities of the Monterey Bay area. This affordable housing would not be possible without the larger Dunes project moving forward, and exhibits Shea Homes’ and Marina Community Partners’ continuing significant commitment to The Dunes master plan and the community of Marina.”

ONE COMMUNITY, TWO SITES AND A WIDE RANGE OF INCOME LEVELS

Terracina at The Dunes is part of a public-private partnership that includes the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA), Chase Bank and WNC.

The public-private partnership was critical for the $71 million project to move forward and provide more affordable housing for low-income residents in Monterey County, where more than half of all renters are considered “cost-burdened,” spending at least 30% of their income on housing, according to the Joint Center for Harvard Studies of Harvard University.

Rents for Terracina at The Dunes apartments will be significantly less compared to nearby market-rate units in Marina – and available to residents that earn a wider range of income levels, thanks to CalHFA’s Mixed-Income Program. The state agency issued tax-exempt bonds for the project and provided a long-term permanent loan and subsidy funds through the Mixed-Income Program.

“I am thrilled that CalHFA was able to provide significant financing to construct Terracina at The Dunes in Monterey County, where affordable housing is greatly needed,” said CalHFA Executive Director Tiena Johnson Hall. “By providing apartments for people at a mix of lower income levels, this development will allow local residents to improve their financial and housing situation without having to move away from the community they call home.”

California Housing Finance Agency Executive Director Tiena Johnson Hall

Marina City Manager Layne Long also applauds the project that will increase the city’s affordable housing supply by more than 30%. About 150 families are on a waiting list for the 420 affordable apartments in the beachside community. The average family waits at least four years before moving into affordable housing.

“We are excited that the Dunes development project continues to move forward, including the Terracina project,” Long said.

AFFORDABLE – AND COMFORTABLE

Terracina at The Dunes will be available for low-income residents that meet an expanded range of income limits established by the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee. With the program, renters earning 30% to 70% of the area’s median income – about $24,400 to $57,000 for a two-person household leasing a one-bedroom apartment – could qualify for Terracina at The Dunes.

Terracina at The Dunes residents will benefit from substantially lower rents compared to market-rate apartments in Marina. One-bedroom apartment rents will range from about $600 to $1,455 per month. Two-bedroom apartments will lease for $715 to $1,740, while three-bedroom units will rent for about $820 to $2,000.

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Terracina at The Dunes is more affordable and, in many cases, will offer more amenities than nearby market-rate communities.

Both of the Terracina at the Dunes community sites – one will have 92 apartments, the other 48 – will include a community room and fitness room. Other amenities will include computer stations, a basketball court, picnic area, a tot-lot play area and laundry rooms.

Apartments will feature energy-efficient appliances and light fixtures, ceiling fans and low-flow faucets, showers and toilets.

The six three-story buildings – four on one site, two on the other – will have a coastal architecture exterior and use a range of materials, complementing the nearby single-family homes in The Dunes master-planned community. Construction should be completed in first-quarter 2024.

“Terracina’s design complements The Dunes on Monterey Bay master plan and makes a pretty significant contribution towards the growing need for affordable housing in Monterey County,” Malhotra said.

USA becomes a partner in two affordable apartment communities in Reno

All 132 apartments will remain affordable for decades and an $8 million rehabilitation is planned

USA Properties Fund has become a partner in two affordable apartment communities in fast-growing Reno, ensuring that low-income residents can remain in their homes – and will also soon enjoy the results from a multimillion-dollar rehabilitation of the properties.

USA Properties Fund becomes a partner and manager of Carriage Stone, a 55-and-older apartment community at 695 Center Street, and the former Dakota Crest community at 446 Kirkman Avenue. Community Services Agency and Development Corp., a nonprofit with 13 affordable apartment communities in Reno, is the other partner.

USA Properties, one of the largest affordable apartment community developer-manager-owners in the West, doubles its number of properties in Reno with the partnership.

‘INCREDIBLE NEED TO KEEP THE APARTMENTS AFFORDABLE’

The apartment communities will share the Carriage Stone name after being packaged together in order to receive Nevada Housing Division-awarded bonds for the purchase and rehabilitation of the properties. Under the agreement, Carriage Stone’s 132 combined apartments will remain affordable housing for decades.

“Reno, like most cities in the West, is facing a critical housing shortage, especially when it comes to affordable apartment communities,” said Geoff Brown, President of USA Properties in Roseville, Calif. “We saw the incredible need to keep the apartments affordable, while also enjoying a great opportunity to expand in Reno – and Nevada.”

The apartment communities are less than a half-mile apart, close to shopping centers, restaurants, health care providers – including Renown Regional Medical Center and the VA Medical Center – and the Riverwalk District along the Truckee River.

“The apartment communities are in the heart of everything,” said Steve Gall, Executive Vice President of Development and Acquisitions for USA Properties. “It’s in an up-and-coming area in the midtown neighborhood.”

The central location coupled with the booming demand for housing that has prompted record-high rents in Reno caused some residents – and housing officials – to worry whether their homes would remain affordable.

“Unfortunately, many of the existing affordable housing projects in the region are being sold to for-profit investors after the affordability period ends and rents are then brought up to market rate,” said Leslie Colbrese, Chief Executive Officer of Community Services Agency and Development Corp. “The affordable housing sector is losing more properties than we are developing, and it’s tough to keep up with the private sector in terms of buying power.”

RENO IS ONE OF THE TOUGHEST HOUSING MARKETS FOR LOW-INCOME RENTERS

The affordable-to-market rate movement has forced many low-income tenants to pay much-higher rents or scramble looking for hard-to-find, lower-priced housing. For example, low-income residents applying for Community Services Agency’s affordable apartment communities have at least a two-year wait, Colbrese said.   

“We need more affordable housing not soon, but now,” she said.

Almost half of extremely low-income renters in Reno are considered cost-burdened, spending at least 30% of their income on housing, one of the highest percentages in the nation, according to the U.S. Housing and Urban Development. Rents for Carriage Stone are below the 30% threshold – and significantly less than nearby market-rate properties.

And Carriage Stone apartments will “remain affordable for another three decades, and will not be brought to market rate and further diminish our already scarce supply of affordable housing,” Colbrese said.

In addition to ensuring that low-income residents have affordable housing, USA Properties and Community Services Agency will spend at least $7.9 million for the rehabilitation of the apartment communities – or about $60,000 per unit, double the minimum required.

New energy-efficient appliances, LED lighting, low-flow showers and toilets, and numerous other improvements are planned for the units. The apartment communities will also get new heating and cooling systems, new roofs and other upgrades, such as improvements to the fitness room, library and TV room at the senior apartment community, and new furniture and outdoor play equipment and upgrades to the swimming pool at the other property.

“The rehab of Carriage Stone ensures the seniors and families living in these communities will be able to continue to afford a welcoming, comfortable and safe place to live,” Colbrese said.

The rehabilitation effort will be completed over an 18- to 24-month period, which will greatly reduce the impact on residents.

“We’re making a long-term investment in these apartment communities, their residents and the region,” Gall said.

Construction starts on Terracina at Whitney Ranch, an affordable community in Rocklin

The 288-apartment community provides working families an opportunity to live close to schools, shopping centers, parks and workplaces  

USA Properties Fund has started construction on Terracina at Whitney Ranch, an affordable apartment community in Rocklin that will provide much-needed housing to residents, from early-in-their career teachers and hard-working couples with children saving for their first home to retirees living on a fixed income.

Terracina at Whitney Ranch – located between University Avenue and Wildcat Boulevard in the Whitney Ranch neighborhood – will provide affordable one- to three-bedroom apartments in a region where rent increases have easily exceeded pay raises during the past several years.

The 288-apartment community will be close to Highway 65, numerous parks, several large office campuses and public schools, including highly-rated Whitney High School. Several major shopping centers – including the Westfield Galleria at Roseville, the largest mall in the Sacramento region – and numerous health care providers are just a few miles away.

“It’s in an excellent neighborhood with first-rate schools, walking trails and a short drive to whatever you need, from grocery stores to movie theaters,” said Geoff Brown, President of USA Properties. “We’ve been working on the project for several years, and we’re happy to see it move forward and help fill the critical need for more affordable housing in the community.”

FIRST APARTMENT COMMUNITY FOR USA PROPERTIES IN ROCKLIN

A market-rate project had been considered for the 11-acre property, but after crunching the figures and looking at numerous options, an affordable apartment community made more sense – for the community and USA Properties, said Jatin Malhotra, Vice President of Acquisitions for USA Properties.

“We’re committed to helping meet the need for more affordable housing and investing back in the community where we live and work,” Malhotra said.

Roseville-based USA Properties has 32 apartment communities in the Sacramento region, but Terracina at Whitney Ranch is the first in Rocklin, a fast-growing city in Northern California. The booming demand has increased housing costs by 15% during the past year in south Placer County, about double the average pay raise for residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Terracina at Whitney Ranch is an important addition to our community, providing working families a new opportunity to live in Rocklin at more affordable rental rates,” said Rocklin Mayor Bill Halldin. “I’m hopeful that many young people who have grown up in town will have a chance to remain here with housing opportunities like Terracina.”

AFFORDABLE RENT, NUMEROUS AMENITIES

Terracina at Whitney Ranch apartments will be significantly less than nearby market-rate apartments and are reserved for residents who earn 30% to 70% of the average median income for Placer County – about $21,750 to $50,750 per year for a two-person household. 

One-bedroom apartment rents are projected to be $515 to $1,275 per month. Two-bedroom apartments will lease for about $606 to $1,518, while three-bedroom units will rent for about $687 to $1,741. Rents could be slightly higher when Terracina at Whitney Ranch is completed in late 2024.

Residents of the apartment community will enjoy a long list of amenities, including a 4,000-square-foot clubhouse with a community room and fitness room; a swimming pool; a courtyard with seating; and a tot-lot play area.

Apartments will feature energy-efficient appliances and light fixtures, ceiling fans and low-flow faucets, showers and toilets. Laundry facilities are also part of Terracina at Whitney Ranch.

Terracina at Whitney Ranch will boast a long list of amenities, including a 4,000-square-foot clubhouse and a swimming pool.

THE ‘ABILITY TO GET CREATIVE’

USA Properties is developing the $104 million Terracina at Whitney Ranch without local or state subsidies, relying only on tax credits, a “kind of unreal” situation in the affordable housing industry, Malhotra said.

“It was all because of our ability to get creative and how we restructured this project,” he said.

Bank of America is the construction and tax credit lender. Citi Community Capital is the permanent lender.

Terracina at Whitney Ranch is the latest project for USA Properties, the 32nd-largest owner of affordable apartment communities in the nation, according to a just-released report by Affordable Housing Finance. The company has about 3,000 apartment units in various phases of development in the West, Brown said.

“Every apartment community helps address the need for more affordable housing – and housing overall,” Brown said. “And every new apartment opens the door to more housing and new opportunities for others.”

USA Properties ranks among the nation’s top affordable developers, moving up nine spots in 2021

USA Properties Fund continues to climb a closely watched affordable housing owners list, and is among the leading developer-owners in the industry nationwide.

USA Properties ranked No. 32 on Affordable Housing Finance’s Affordable Housing Owners 2021 list, moving up nine spots from the previous year. The company had 11,916 affordable units in January 2021, almost 1,200 more than a year earlier.

The Roseville-based company’s fast-paced growth is attributed to developing and building more affordable apartment communities, not through acquisitions like many others on the list.

USA Properties has been aggressively building affordable housing for more than four decades and has increased production in recent years. The company has announced several affordable apartment communities during the past year, from Lancaster in Southern California to Portland, Oregon, a new market for USA Properties.


CHECKING THE FIGURES
  • USA Properties is the 32nd-largest affordable housing owner in the U.S., with more than 11,900 units in January 2021.
  • The company started construction on 375 affordable units in 2021, with another 3,000 units in some form of development.

“We’re very proud of our accomplishments and being recognized on the Affordable Housing Finance lists, which is only possible through the commitment and hard work of our team and partners,” said Geoff Brown, President and CEO of USA Properties. “We are deeply aware of the need for more affordable housing in the West, and we are working hard to meet the demand and provide quality housing and first-rate communities.”

ALMOST 400 AFFORDABLE UNITS STARTED IN 2021 — ANOTHER 3,000 ARE IN THE WORKS

Each affordable apartment community can take 18 to 24 months to build once construction starts, creating a roller-coaster-like effect on the Affordable Housing Finance’s Affordable Developers list, which ranks the number of units started during the year.

USA Properties ranked No. 45 in 2021, down from No. 13 in 2020. The company started 375 affordable units in 2021, compared to 983 units in 2020, according to the Affordable Housing Finance report.

The company has about 3,000 affordable units in various phases of development or rehabilitation from the Pacific Northwest to Southern California. USA Properties is one of the largest affordable apartment community developer-builder-manager-owners in the West.

USA Properties expanded into market-rate apartment communities several years ago, with developments in the Bay Area, the Sacramento region and Southern California. But Affordable Housing Finance only looks at affordable apartment communities for its annual list.

“We are as committed as ever to affordable housing, which has been the foundation of the company and our success,” said Brown, whose father, J.B. Brown, started the company in 1981. “But it’s very important to remember that every new home, affordable and market-rate, helps fill the incredible demand and need for more housing.”

Just some of our affordable apartment communities under construction

USA Properties expands into Oregon with The Canopy Apartments in Portland

Partnership with Northwest Housing Alternatives and Oregon Housing and Community Services starts construction on apartment community

USA Properties Fund, one of the fastest-growing and leading affordable developer-owner-managers in the West, Northwest Housing Alternatives and Oregon Housing and Community Services are partnering on The Canopy Apartments at Powell, a much-needed affordable apartment community close to public transportation, freeways, schools and several shopping centers in east Portland.

Construction on The Canopy Apartments at Powell – located at 12439 SE Powell Blvd., about 12 miles east of downtown Portland – has started and should be completed in late 2023. The 169-apartment community will have numerous amenities, including a bike room, a courtyard with a tot lot, a dog wash and a donation pantry, allowing residents to share food resources.

The $63 million development is the first in Oregon for USA Properties Fund, which has more than 90 affordable and market-rate apartment communities in California and Nevada.

Geoffrey Brown portrait

Aggressive efforts to address affordable housing, through legislation and the passing of a bond measure by voters in recent years, have “made it more realistic to develop affordable housing” in Oregon, said USA Properties President Geoff Brown,

“We’ve been looking at expanding to Portland for a while, and The Canopy Apartments is a good fit and a great project to enter the market,” said Brown, who knows the region well, earning a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Willamette University in Salem. “We appreciate the relationships that we have developed and enjoy working with Northwest Housing and OHCS. They are great people who understand affordable housing.”

‘SAFE, STABLE AND AFFORDABLE HOUSING FOR OREGON FAMILIES’

The public-private partnership – including $15.2 million from OHCS’ Local Innovation and Fast Track (LIFT) Housing Program – was critical in taking the apartment community from the drawing board to the 3.8-acre parcel, said Darryl Briley, a Portland-area development consultant working on the project.

“Increasing access to safe, stable and affordable housing for Oregon families is a continued commitment of OHCS,” said OHCS Executive Director Andrea Bell. “Housing is a critical social determinant of health because it is a platform for health, well-being and community. Financing multifamily affordable housing like The Canopy Apartments at Powell is a representation of our ambitious long-term strategy to respond to the housing crisis impacting the most vulnerable communities in Oregon. It is about centering humanity.”

OHCS has funded almost 19,000 affordable rental homes during the first three years of its Housing Plan, and is on pace to easily exceed the goal of 25,000 over five years.

The Portland Housing Bureau has also played a major role in The Canopy Apartments at Powell, waiving millions of dollars in development fees. The city has issued a State of Emergency on Housing and Homelessness, which greatly expedites the permitting process.

SMALLER RENTS, LARGER APARTMENTS

The Canopy Apartments at Powell will provide much-needed affordable housing for residents in the Portland region, where almost half (46%) of households that rent are considered “cost-burdened,” spending at least 30% of their income on housing, according to The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

The Canopy Apartments at Powell is for residents earning less than 60% of the area’s median income – about $58,000 per year for a family of four. Rents will range from less than $1,100 per month for a one-bedroom apartment to just more than $1,500 for a three-bedroom unit.

Those rents are significantly less than nearby market-rate apartments in Portland, according to industry tracker Zumper.

Almost as important as the affordable rents are the size of the units, said Destin Ferdun, Director of Real Estate Development for Northwest Housing Alternatives. About half of the apartments will be three-bedroom units, helping meet an often-overlooked and underserved population in the Portland region – families.

The Canopy Apartments at Powell has a “very cost-effective, efficient use of the space,” Ferdun said.

LONG LIST OF AMENITIES, LESS IMPACT ON THE ENVIRONMENT

The modern contemporary-designed apartment community will have a three- and a four-story building. Amenities will include elevators, laundry facilities on each floor, and ample on-site parking with an electric vehicle charging station.

Apartments will include electric heating; laminate flooring; energy-efficient appliances and lighting; and low-flow faucets, showers and toilets. Apartments can also accommodate tenant-owned air conditioning units, if necessary.

USA Properties, which embraced green-building practices more than a decade ago, has registered with Earth Advantage and expects to receive a Platinum-level certification for the project. Numerous earth-friendly upgrades – including high-performance windows, the installation of a solar-panel system and a commitment to building with local materials – will help boost the performance of The Canopy Apartments at Powell by at least 26% compared to baseline permitted construction, said Eric Foley, Manager of the Multifamily Program for Earth Advantage.  

The Canopy Apartments is “very thoughtful in its design,” Briley said.

JP Morgan Chase and WNC are financial partners on the project. WALSH Construction Co. is the general contractor.

The Canopy Apartments at Powell could be the first of several projects in the Portland region for Roseville, Calif.-based USA Properties.

“Oregon and the Portland community are committed to addressing the overwhelming need for more affordable housing,” Brown said. “And we’re looking forward to finding projects that make sense for us and our partners, and being part of the solution that helps ease the critical shortage of affordable housing in the region.”

USA Properties starts construction on College Creek that will provide housing for a range of incomes

164-apartment community is ‘an example of how partnerships … are an effective way to creating much-needed housing’

USA Properties Fund has started construction on College Creek, an affordable apartment community in Santa Rosa that will provide much-needed housing to residents that earn a range of income levels under a new state program.

College Creek – located at 2150 W. College Avenue, just west of Highway 101 and north of Highway 12 – could be home to early-in-their career school teachers, hardworking couples with children saving for a house, or retirees living on a fixed income.

College Creek “caters to everyone – families, the working class, seniors,” said Jatin Malhotra, Vice President of Acquisitions for USA Properties. “It’s exciting to see this come together.”

The 164-apartment community will be close to downtown Santa Rosa, large shopping centers, health care providers and several schools, including Piner High School and Santa Rosa Junior College.

College Creek is also near the Santa Rosa Creek Trail and Finley Community Park, which includes sports courts, walking trails and a swimming pool. The apartment community is also next to the Westside Transit Center, served by multiple bus lines that provide connections for the Downtown SMART station.

USA Properties acquired the 7.4-acre site from Sonoma County Community Development Commission, one of the partners on the project along with Bank of America and California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA). The public-private partnership was critical for the $69 million development to move forward.

Members of the partnership are committed to the development that ensures more housing for low-income residents in Sonoma County, where half of all households are considered “cost-burdened,” spending at least 30% of their income on housing, according to the California Housing Partnership.

ONE COMMUNITY, A RANGE OF INCOMES

College Creek apartments will be substantially less than nearby market-rate units in Santa Rosa – and available to residents that earn a wider range of income levels, thanks to CalHFA’s Mixed-Income Program.

“I am thrilled to see CalHFA’s Mixed-Income Program help finance affordable housing for residents of Sonoma County,” said Tiena Johnson Hall, Executive Director of CalHFA. “This development is a great example of how partnerships between local and state government, and private affordable housing developers like USA Properties, are an effective way to creating much-needed housing for people at a mix of lower incomes.”

Tiena Johnson Hall

College Creek – the sixth affordable apartment community in Santa Rosa for USA Properties – should be completed in fall 2023.

“We’ve been working with the City of Santa Rosa and Sonoma County for many years, and we share a commitment to provide quality housing that meets the needs of the community,” said Geoff Brown, President of USA Properties.

The company helped the community recover from the devastating Tubbs Fire in October 2017, providing supplies and support to residents for what was then the largest-ever wildfire in California history.

“As Santa Rosa and the North Bay continue to rebuild after so much housing lost to wildfire, the College Creek project from USA Properties adds new, high-quality affordable housing for residents in the region’s workforce,” said Jason Foster, Bank of America North Bay President. “Bank of America was proud to help finance this important housing project.”

College Creek will be available for low-income residents that meet an expanded range of income limits established by the Tax Credit Allocation Committee. With the program, renters earning 30% to 70% of the area’s median income – about $24,450 to $57,050 for a one-person household leasing a one-bedroom apartment – could qualify for College Creek.

“Sonoma County prospers best when it is a place with housing opportunities across the income spectrum,” said Dave Kiff, Interim Executive Director of the Sonoma County Community Development Commission. “The affordability of the College Creek project’s housing units is part of making Sonoma County that place. We are so thankful that USA Properties has stepped up with county government, the City of Santa Rosa and CalHFA to build it.”

College Creek residents will benefit from substantially lower rents compared to market-rate apartments in Santa Rosa. One-bedroom apartment rents will range from $615 to $1,488 per month, depending on the income of residents. Two-bedroom apartments will lease for $730 to $1,777, while three-bedroom units will rent for $836 to $2,046.

The average one-bedroom apartment rents for about $2,100 in Santa Rosa, according to RENTCafe.

AFFORDABLE – WITH A LONG LIST OF AMENITIES

But affordable does not mean basic or boring for residents at College Creek. The apartment community – a four-story building and two three-story buildings – will offer a long list of amenities, including a community room complete with computer workstations; a fitness room; a swimming pool; a tot lot; and on-site laundry facilities.

Apartments will feature energy-efficient appliances and light fixtures, ceiling fans and low-flow faucets, showers and toilets.

“It will be a very nice apartment community,” Malhotra said. “It’s designed to meet the community’s needs and the neighbors around it.”

USA Properties worked closely with the community, including the City of Santa Rosa and Sonoma County, and neighbors on the project that has been in the planning stages for several years.

“It took a little bit of everything to bring this project to life,” Malhotra said. “It’s a true public-private partnership and a template for how public agencies and developers can work together to create more affordable housing.”

Jatin Malhotra portrait
Jatin Malhotra

USA Properties President Geoff Brown elected Chairman of NH&RA

The following story appeared in the February 2022 issue of National Housing & Rehabilitation Association’s magazine, Tax Credit Advisor.

(Editor’s note: The following interview was conducted in January 2022, when Covid cases were at a much higher level because of the omicron variant.)

By Darryl Hicks

When the National Housing & Rehabilitation Association (NH&RA) convenes in Palm Beach, FL later this month for its Annual Meeting, Geoff Brown will officially become the next chairman of the Board of Directors.

Under Brown’s leadership, USA Properties Fund has become one of the largest developer-manager-owners of affordable housing in the West and a leader in the multifamily industry.

He is widely regarded as an innovator who utilizes creative financing solutions to overcome funding gaps and complete projects, and is a firm believer in the green building movement and incorporating solar power in almost every property the company develops.

Brown is also an advocate who believes there is a dangerous shortage of affordable housing in California and that public officials should allocate greater resources to increase supply. And he’s always exploring new ways to improve access to social services at his properties.

Tax Credit Advisor sat down with Brown to talk about his priorities as NH&RA’s next chairman, as well as important issues and trends that he’s seeing in the marketplace.

Tax Credit Advisor: How large is your affordable housing portfolio? How many states are you currently active in? Are there any new housing markets that you’re looking at in 2022?

Geoff Brown: We have 10,900 units in our affordable portfolio. We’re primarily in California and we have four communities in Nevada. This month, we will buy another 132 units in Nevada with the intent of doing a tax-exempt bond rehab on those units later this year. The newest market that we’re getting into—thanks to Thom (NH&RA President Thom Amdur)—is Oregon. NH&RA got wind that Oregon was getting more money [for affordable housing] and held a symposium there in September 2018. We have formed a partnership with Northwest Housing Alternatives, a well-respected nonprofit, and we’re going to close our first affordable housing project there this month. It’s called The Canopy, a 165-unit property in Portland, that we’re very excited about. A second project that we’re working on in the Portland area is in pre-development. We’ll continue looking for opportunities in neighboring states, but California will always be our primary market.

TCA: Congratulations on becoming the next NH&RA chairman. What will be your top priorities for NH&RA and its members for the next 12 months?

GB: I have enormous respect for the organization. We joined NH&RA in 1994, so almost, not quite, 30 years of the 41 years that USA Properties Fund has existed. I would like to explore opportunities to expand NH&RA’s footprint in affordable housing at the national level. Affordable housing is a national concern, not just in California and New York. The value that NH&RA has added to that discussion, the innovative ideas that it has advocated for and its ability to stay ahead of the curve, have been hugely beneficial. Part of it is leveraging members’ experience of doing new and creative things. There’s a lot of great brain power in the organization. I’d like to expand the footprint of how we utilize that brain power, while also bringing in new members from parts of the country where NH&RA hasn’t been quite as engaged.

“Affordable housing is a national concern, not just in California and New York. The value that NH&RA has added to that discussion, the innovative ideas that it has advocated for and its ability to stay ahead of the curve, have been hugely beneficial.”

Geoff Brown

Golden anniversary for NH&RA

TCA: 2022 is also a special year for NH&RA, because the association will be celebrating its 50th anniversary. Have you thought about how you’d like to commemorate the association and its achievements?

GB: Thom and Peter (NH&RA CEO Peter Bell) have spent the most time thinking about that, as they should. The annual meeting in Palm Beach will be a celebration that includes people who have been involved in the organization for a long time. I’m going to be there to support whatever they want to do. It is a very important milestone to acknowledge. Our company last year had its 40th anniversary. Milestones for organizations, whether it’s a trade organization or a company, are very important to acknowledge.

TCA: How have you personally benefited from your involvement in NH&RA?

GB: It has been great to meet people on a national basis who I otherwise wouldn’t have met and gotten to know. There are so many smart people who are active in NH&RA. Networking and learning from them has been hugely beneficial. I have also profited from NH&RA’s conferences. NH&RA has always done a good job of staying ahead of the curve and being in tune to innovative ways that people have figured out to finance and build more affordable housing, or just dealing with production issues that are challenging the industry. Being involved in NH&RA has been very good for our company and me on an educational level, as well as a networking level.

TCA: Let’s switch to the marketplace. Just when things were normalizing, we have a new variant that’s causing problems for some folks. Have you experienced any pipeline disruptions? Have you instituted any new precautionary measures at your construction sites, or the properties you manage?

GB: The whole economy with the supply chain crisis, whether that’s due to COVID, tariffs, whatever, has led to disruptions in the delivery of certain materials to our construction sites that we never dreamed would happen. Lately, getting windows delivered has been a challenge. As an example, one of the things we had to deal with early on in California with COVID was all the county regulations. Some are still in place or new regulations for COVID, like in Los Angeles, are now in place. We’re building two projects right now in Los Angeles County. Our teams must wear surgical or respiratory masks, so that’s a new requirement. Our teams have had to be sensitive not only to federal and state requirements but also county requirements. In California, we operate in a lot of different counties, so that’s been something we’ve had to stay abreast of.

Supply-chain issues a serious challenge

TCA: Are you hearing from your suppliers whether these disruptions will go away anytime soon?

GB: It varies depending on the materials and where they’re coming from and who the supplier is. When you have 80,000 open truck driver positions in this country that means the problem isn’t stopping when the ships get to the port. Down in Orange County (CA), you see all these ships on the sea that aren’t getting to the port with materials, but even once they get to the port the supply chain problem doesn’t go away. I think we’re going to have to deal with this for another year. I’m talking the whole economy, not just affordable housing. For us, I think it will vary depending on the materials and where they’re coming from. Hopefully, the omicron situation we’re dealing with now will be better by springtime. We just came out of the holidays where people gathered. We’re way ahead of where we were a year ago in terms of being vaccinated and so I’m optimistic that conditions will get better. I mention this because when we ultimately reach a new normal, I think there will be some correlation of how that ultimately affects the supply chain issue.

TCA: You are a leading housing advocate in California. What are your current policy priorities and what are you doing to ensure affordable housing gets the resources it deserves?

GB: Within our company, as well as a lot of others, the number one priority is always affordable housing production and that means trying to get as many units produced as possible within California. As I always say, when we have these debates, within our industry we don’t always agree on policies, but we all agree there’s a shortage of affordable housing. You would think that addressing the challenge would be simple, but it is everything but simple, for two reasons. Number one, the state says it wants more production but ends up creating policies that are counter to achieving that goal, whether it’s with labor or building codes or the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Governor Newsom has done a very good job of putting pressure on cities and counties. We have seen a definite change locally for more production. But the other thing that’s also going on is that the state has been putting more resources into homeless and supportive housing. That should and needs to be a very high priority, but it comes with a cost. We’re continually advocating for the state to leverage its precious resources as efficiently as possible, so we can maximize production.

“… within our industry we don’t always agree on policies, but we all agree there’s a shortage of affordable housing.”

Geoff Brown on the importance of working together on building more affordable housing

TCA: Have your residents by and large recovered financially from the economic challenges created by COVID, or are there lingering issues that your property managers are dealing with? If there are lingering issues, what steps are you taking to keep eviction rates down?

GB: I can count on one hand the number of evictions we’re working on right now. They’re very minimal. We don’t want to evict tenants. That’s always a last resort. What’s interesting about this environment is that there are plenty of jobs out there. At the end of last year, there were 11 million job vacancies. A lot of those vacancies were in service sectors that our residents would qualify for. There are bad actors out there who weren’t financially hit by COVID but took advantage of the foreclosure moratoriums and don’t want to pay rent. But for the most part, people can get work and I think that’s why our evictions are so low.

An emphasis on affordability — and philanthropy

TCA: I’d like to learn more about the JB Brown Fund. Why was it created? How is it funded? How has it impacted the lives of your residents?

GB: The JB Brown Fund is 11 years old. It has been extremely impactful. We’ve given out 330 academic scholarships and 745 youth sports grants. My kids never had to worry about money if they wanted to participate in youth sports. Kids learn a lot of life lessons through sports and so it was important to me that our residents weren’t prevented from those same opportunities because of money. In addition, we’ve given out 600 client assistance awards either to help people with temporary financial hardships or special needs. For example, to help provide a hearing aid or a walker for an elderly person. We have touched 1,000 families and raised over $1.6 million. It’s a big part of our culture. We also created the Robert Clark Trade School Scholarship, named for a USA Properties employee who tragically passed away in 2020, to encourage our residents who want to become an electrician or a plumber to go to trade school. We tell our residents that they can make a really good living from a specialized trade. We want to provide the resources for them to do that.

LifeSTEPS Executive Director Beth Southorn (left) and Geoff Brown (far right) with JB Brown Fund scholarship recipients Eseosa (second from left) and Aiseosa Omorogieva in 2019. The twin brother and sister attended the University of California, Davis, with assistance from the JB Brown Fund.

TCA: The last time we talked in 2015, you were one of a handful of developers who were examining cutting-edge opportunities to provide home health care services for your aging residents. How has that worked out?

GB: It’s still a work in process. The RN Coaching PILOT Program began in the spring of 2016 and was one of the first of its kind in California that helped seniors who had health issues and couldn’t easily get to a doctor to age in place, thanks to an on-site registered nurse who visited senior communities every week. It was created in partnership with LifeSTEPS, which provides social services at many of our communities. The pilot also provided hands-on health care training for nursing students from the Betty Moore School of Nursing at the University of California, Davis. It was very successful for two years. COVID unfortunately created headwinds that prevented us from continuing that service. We are currently working with LifeSTEPS and LeadingAge, a big senior organization here in California, to resuscitate that program, either to model in another state, or to do something similar to what we had been doing. Our goal is to create a cost-efficient home health care program, but the key is getting a permanent funding source. Part of my thing with getting support from the state isn’t to put my hand out and ask for money. Rather, it’s being able to say to the state, ‘We can save you money, because we’ve come up with an alternative solution to the current system that is costing you more money.’ The objective has always been to help our residents but to do it in a way where we’re saving the system money.