Santa Ana Affordable Housing Funds in Jeopardy

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July 27, 2016                                                                     Contact: Luis Sarmiento
PRESS RELEASE                                                      (714)425-5562

SANTA ANA AFFORDABLE HOUSING FUNDS IN JEOPARDY

Heritage Village Project Developers Won’t Honor Their Agreement

SANTA ANA, CA — The Santa Ana Planning Commission recently considered an amendment to the city’s Housing Opportunity Ordinance that seriously threatens the ability to build affordable housing in the City.  If passed, this amendment would allow developers who do not wish to include affordable units within their project to delay payment of their “in-lieu” fees, which are used by the City to build affordable housing elsewhere. “There is a serious lack of affordable housing throughout the City, and in-lieu fees are an important way to address local housing needs,” Cesar Covarrubias, Executive Director of The Kennedy Commission explained.  Covarrubias and over 40 local organizations and residents turned out to the meeting to voice opposition.  Two commissioners, Bauer and Mclaughlin, voted against the proposed change, and two in favor; therefore the amendment failed to acquire the recommendation of the Planning Commission.  It will now be considered by the City Council, who will vote to accept or reject the proposed amendment.

The Heritage Village Project – whose developers sought this amendment – is a large, 1,221-unit, mixed-use development on an 18.84-acre site, located at 2001 East Dyer Road, approved by the City in February 2016.  At that time, rather than choosing to build affordable housing units at the Heritage Village project, developer Heritage Village OC LLC, agreed to comply with the City’s Housing Opportunity Ordinance, committing to pay a nearly $10 million in-lieu fee to the City prior to obtaining their first building permit.

Now, Heritage Village OC LLC wants to amend the Ordinance to delay payment of the fees, which jeopardizes the future construction of affordable housing and creates uncertainty for a growing number of residents who need access to housing now. Rather than pay the up-front, the developers are requesting to roll out the fees in payments, or phases.

“After developers got their project approved by the City, they then turned around and claimed they didn’t know they had to pay all fees upfront. When a company goes through the City’s process, and at the last minute they want to change the rules in their favor, that is called a “bait and switch.” We need these up-front fees to pay for the affordable housing, to help curb the rising housing costs that impact our communities,” said Joese Hernandez from OCCORD.

If the Santa Ana City Council votes to amend the ordinance,  Heritage Village OC LLC would pay in-lieu fees in phases with their construction, but provides no guarantee that future payments will be made.

At the Planning Commission meeting, community groups and residents voiced their disapproval of projects that favor developer interests over community needs.  “I’m at risk of being homeless in two weeks,” Araceli Robles, a Santa Ana resident spoke, “Outside groups are coming to tell us to change the Ordinance, and you are thinking of their interests rather than our interests….I trust that you will listen with your hearts.”  Residents urged the Planning Commission to hold Heritage Village OC LLC accountable to the terms of their original agreement.

The Santa Ana City Council plans to discuss, and possibly vote, on the ordinance on August 16, 2016 at 5:00pm. Santa Ana Building Healthy Communities and its partner organizations and residents plan to attend the August 16th City Council meeting and urge the community to organize and hold City leaders and developers accountable to residents and their needs.

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