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, 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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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 3,000units 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
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
Partnership with Northwest Housing Alternatives and Oregon Housing and Community Services starts construction onapartment 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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
$5.7 million investment adds long list of amenities and modern features while helping residents to age in place at affordable senior apartment community
USA Properties Fund has completed an extensive rehabilitation project of Sierra Sunrise in Carmichael, one of its largest-ever efforts for an existing property.
From new appliances, cabinets, flooring and lighting in the 119 apartments to converting a little-used indoor spa into a much-in-demand fitness center, the rehabilitation project has given a modern look to a community that opened in 1976.
“Walking into the building, I was very excited,” resident Dawn Jenkins said of her first time seeing the completed project. “It’s beautiful. It’s so well decorated, so well done.”
Sierra Sunrise – an affordable community for low- to very-low-income residents at least 62 years old just east of Sacramento – underwent a complete floor-to-roof rehabilitation. USA Properties, one of the largest developer-owner-managers of affordable apartment communities in the West, bought Sierra Sunrise in 2004.
“It doesn’t even look like the same space,” said Yvonne McDonald, Community Manager of the affordable senior apartment community. “It surpassed my expectations.”
The 18-month project included the easy-to-see – such as new furniture and paint – but also many behind-the-scenes improvements, like the installation of the company’s second-largest photovoltaic system that will cut energy costs and help the environment.
“We’re always looking at how to improve our apartment communities,” said USA Properties President Geoff Brown. “Sierra Sunrise is an example of what is possible, and how we can turn a decades-old building into a more comfortable, functional and modern community.”
‘They’re living in a brand-new home’
Residents are back home enjoying their new apartments and the community.
“It was nice to see the response from residents and to give them a home this nice,” said Construction Project Manager John Kelly, who oversaw the $5.7 million project. “They are very appreciative. They’re living in a brand-new home.”
Some of the changes include an extensive facelift to the community/dining room; a craft room with a kitchen where residents can enjoy hobbies and prepare their own meals; a comfortable media room for movie night; and a cozy library with floor-to-ceiling shelves and two computer stations.
Jenkins appreciates her just-like-new apartment, including the additional cabinet space and the new, black refrigerator. She also applauds the doubling of washers and dryers in the laundry rooms, and likes the new seating area near the main entrance, perfect for a late-night get-together with friends.
“There are so many areas that we put in for residents to congregate and share space,” said Megan Underwood, Compliance Manager for USA Multifamily Management. “Everything was to create a feeling of community.”
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Catering kitchen and on-site registered nursing program helps residents to age in place
Part of building “community” includes helping residents to age in place with their friends and remain at Sierra Sunrise as long as possible, a long-standing mission of USA Properties, said Tami Pedroia, a Senior Regional Manager for USA Properties.
For example, a catering kitchen with a commercial refrigerator and freezer and retherm tower will help Meals on Wheels provide meals every weekday to residents after the Covid pandemic. A free, on-site registered nursing program that meets with residents twice a week has a new office. And a sidewalk now goes around the entire property, allowing residents – some with limited mobility – to get exercise and enjoy the outdoors.
The sidewalk passes through an outdoor area that includes a new dog run, gazebos, a barbecue area with seating, and raised planters where residents can put their gardening skills to work.
“I love the sidewalk that goes clear around the building,” said Jenkins, who walks her dog along the path daily and oversees the raised planters in the garden for residents. “It’s freedom.”
From the remodeled community room to the patio with seating areas, “everything allows residents to socialize,” said McDonald, who has been part of the community management team since 2016.
Careful planning to relocate residents
Construction started in spring 2020, and the company was committed to cause as little disruption as possible to residents during the long-term rehabilitation project.
“We had to have a very strategic approach,” Pedroia added. “But, overall, it went very smoothly.”
Jenkins, who has lived at Sierra Sunrise since 2015, agrees.
“I knew with any remodel, there would be some inconvenience, but they kept it at a minimum,” Jenkins said. “Management went above and beyond.”
And the end result was well received by residents living in the 65 studios and 54 one-bedroom homes. They appreciate the new flooring, fixtures, LED lighting and Quartz countertops.
“Once all the dust settled, some were in tears,” said McDonald, adding that one resident didn’t want to leave her apartment during construction but was pleasantly surprised when she returned to her new home. “She cried about leaving … and she cried when she came back.”
Leatha Clark, a Project Manager for USA Properties Fund, has been chosen to participate in the North State Building Industry Association’s prestigious BUILD Program, a yearlong program designed to educate and expose future leaders to many sides of the industry – from acquiring and developing land to marketing and selling a completed project.
Clark, who joined USA Properties in July 2018, was nominated for the BUILD program and completed the interview and selection process this fall.
Clark and 17 other young leaders will participate in educational workshops, leadership projects and be involved in industry-wide and community efforts through the North State BIA in 2022.
“Leatha has been a strong performer since she joined the company,” says USA Properties Vice President of Development Milo Terzich, who nominated Clark for the BUILD program. “She is a quick learner and motivated to expand her expertise. She is also very smart and isn’t afraid to ask challenging questions.”
Clark says the BUILD Program is a “good opportunity to meet more people in the industry … and learn more about the construction and marketing side.”
‘A sense of purpose’
Clark, who is currently managing four development projects and has completed the entitlement process of four others for USA Properties, says the BUILD program will educate her how the front end of development affects the end product.
And Clark, who earned her bachelor’s degree in City/Urban, Community and Regional Planning from San Jose State University, knows the importance of her expertise and hard work.
“She has a sense of purpose in the value that housing brings to people,” Terzich said. “She has an innate desire for service and community benefit.”
Clark appreciates Terzich’s nomination for the BUILD Program, and the company’s ongoing support to help her learn more about the ever-changing construction industry. “He’s always looking for opportunities to push me a bit and get me out of my comfort zone,” she says of Terzich. “I appreciate that, because it shows that he has confidence in me and wants to see me grow.”
111-apartment development is blocks from large shopping centers, Highway 50
USA Properties Fund has started construction on Sage at Folsom, bringing much-needed affordable senior housing at a “market-rate location” to one of the fastest-growing and highest-rated livable cities in California.
Sage at Folsom, located at 75 Scholar Way, will offer affordable housing for residents 55 years and older at a range of income levels with a long list of amenities – including a community garden, dog park and a refrigerated storage area for food deliveries.
“We’ve enjoyed much success in Folsom, and are looking forward to providing more affordable housing for seniors looking to live in a very vibrant neighborhood and thriving city,” said Geoff Brown, President of USA Properties Fund.
‘Main and Main of Folsom’
The 111-apartment community is a few blocks from Folsom Lake College, health care providers, grocery stores and several large shopping centers, including Broadstone Plaza and the Palladio Shopping Center. Sage at Folsom is also close to Highway 50 and less than a block from a new bus stop.
“It’s like the Main and Main of Folsom,” said Gabe Gardner of the USA Properties’ Acquisitions team. “It’s a market-rate location for an affordable community.”
Construction on the $32 million development started in November, and should be completed in first-quarter 2023. Bank of America and the City of Folsom are investment partners on the project.
“Bank of America Community Development Banking is pleased to help finance this much-needed affordable housing for seniors in Sacramento County,” said CP Parmar, President of Bank of America Sacramento. “Developer USA Properties has done a tremendous job with Sage at Folsom, representing a great example of the impact that public-private partnerships can make in creating more quality affordable housing for those most in need.”
Homes for seniors who earn about $19,150 to $51,000
Fast-rising rents in recent years have greatly increased the need for more affordable housing in Folsom, especially for low-income seniors.
Age-eligible residents will need to earn 30% to 80% of the median income for Sacramento County – about $19,150 to $51,000 per year – in order to qualify for Sage at Folsom. Rents will range from $450 to $1,300. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Folsom is about $2,330, according to RENTCafe.
Sage at Folsom is affordable, not basic.
The one-bedroom homes will feature energy-efficient appliances and light fixtures, ceiling fans and low-flow faucets, showers and toilets. Each of the three floors will include laundry facilities for residents.
Sage of Folsom residents will also enjoy numerous community amenities, including a clubhouse with a kitchenette and great room; a health and wellness center; a patio with dining and seating areas; a Bocce court; community garden and a dog park. Refrigerated food storage, from grocery stores or nearby restaurants, are available to residents.
Clean energy — and EV charging stations
The apartment community will have ample parking, including EV charging stations. And Sage at Folsom’s electricity will come from Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s (SMUD) SolarShare Program, ensuring clean solar is the power source.
Sage at Folsom’s architecture will blend in well with the surrounding neighborhood.
“It’s going to look amazing,” Gardner said. “It will be stunning.”
Sage at Folsom will be the fourth apartment community for USA Properties in the Folsom area, including the award-winning communities of Forestwood at Folsom and Talavera, a market-rate development less than a mile away. The 40-year-old company is one of the largest affordable apartment community developers in the West.
“Every apartment community we build, affordable or market-rate, opens the door to more housing and opportunities,” Brown said.
Folsom, about 25 miles east of the state Capitol in Sacramento, has received numerous national awards for best places to live, family living, finding a job and safety in recent years, including honors from Money magazine and WalletHub.
“We’re looking forward to Sage at Folsom residents enjoying the community and all it has to offer, from the historic district to Folsom Lake,” Brown said.
Almost 1,000 low-income residents living in USA Properties Fund apartment communities have been helped by the one-of-a-kind program
The JB Brown Fund celebrated its 10-year anniversary Oct. 7 at USA Properties Fund’s headquarters in Roseville, honoring those who have made the organization such a success and sharing the stories of a few recipients helped by the social-services program.
The two-hour event featured speakers, a hosted food truck, and a silent in-person and online auction with proceeds benefiting the organization.
The auction, which raised $1,200, included a custom cake, original artwork to gift baskets with various themes, from Family Fun Night to Golf to Soccer, complete with Sacramento Republic FC items and tickets.
What is the JB Brown Fund?
Earning a college degree with the help of a much-needed scholarship.
Getting through a challenging emotional and financial period, such as a job loss or the sudden death of a loved one – or the far-reaching and hard-to-imagine impact of the Covid pandemic.
Being active and learning some of life’s most-valuable lessons, from camaraderie to sportsmanship, by participating in youth sports.
All have been made possible, and so much more, thanks to the JB Brown Fund, a partnership between USA Properties Fund and LifeSTEPS, a nonprofit that provides social services at many of USA Properties’ affordable family and senior apartment communities.
What started as an idea during a drive to the airport, has helped almost 1,000 low-income residents reach new heights – and recover from the most turbulent of times – since 2011.
The JB Brown Fund helps low-income residents – from hardworking single parents to seniors living on a fixed-income – achieve their dreams, like attending and completing college, to dealing with an unexpected financial emergency, including paying for a new pair of eyeglasses or hearing aids to vehicle repairs.
It helped out a lot. It paid for more than half of my tuition. I really appreciate the help.
— Laura Gutierrez, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with an emphasis on human resources from San Jose State University in 2020. The $11,000 in college scholarships from the JB Brown Fund allowed her to focus on her classes and being a new mother – and worry less about paying for school. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with a 3.9 grade-point average.
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Almost $1.35 million awarded since 2011
The JB Brown Fund has awarded almost $1.35 million to residents since starting in 2011, including $900,000 for college scholarships to residents. Every dollar donated goes directly to helping residents.
“The JB Brown Fund truly changes lives, establishes a better foundation for residents and their families, and helps build stronger communities,” said USA Properties President Geoff Brown, whose father J.B. Brown founded the company in 1981. “The JB Brown Fund is an investment in our residents and their unlimited potential.”
The JB Brown Fund helps “move the needle and breaks the cycle of poverty,” said LifeSTEPS Executive Director Beth Southorn, who co-founded the JB Brown Fund with Geoff Brown. The fund, its donors and recipients are “carriers of transformation and positivity.”
Learn more about the JB Brown Fund and how you can help and join the life-changing effort at jbbrownfund.org.
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