Dozens of new affordable homes intended for people at risk of homelessness are expected to come to Santa Ana in the next couple years after local officials and nonprofits broke ground on a housing project last week.

The construction is underway amid pressure from state officials on local representatives across California to address the housing unaffordability crisis.

At the same time, Orange County is still behind on its goal from 2018 to build 2,700 permanent supportive housing units for local homeless people in need. 

[Read: Orange County Still Behind on Building Affordable Housing Despite Waves of Developments]

The $30 million project is a collaboration between WISEPlace, a nonprofit that aims to house vulnerable women and Jamboree, an affordable housing nonprofit, that looks to bring 47 new homes to Orange County.

Santa Ana city officials, WISEPlace board members and others breaking ground at the WISEPlace permanent supportive housing construction site on June 15, 2023. Credit: ERIKA TAYLOR, Voice of OC.

Brateil Aghasi, CEO of WISEPlace, said in a Thursday interview that building houses ends homelessness.

“Housing is a fundamental basic need and a human right,” she said. “This ends the homelessness of chronically homeless individuals.”

Anaheim Mayor Ashleigh Aitken sits on WISEPlace’s Board of Directors. Her father, Wylie, chairs Voice of OC’s board of directors.

Brateil Aghasi, WISEPlace chief executive officer, speaking at the groundbreaking of permanent supportive housing project in Santa Ana on June 15, 2023. Credit: ERIKA TAYLOR, Voice of OC.

Once construction is complete – expected in the end of 2024 – Aghasi’s organization will provide wraparound services to residents including therapeutic services, workshops on financial literacy and employment readiness.

There will also be an additional home for an onsite property manager as well as a fitness center and community garden.

Homes will be reserved for people making 30% of the area median income or about $30,150 for a one person household in Orange County. 

Jamboree President and CEO Laura Archuleta said rent will cost around $300-$340 a month.

“The funding that came together on this property was specifically targeted to that number 30% of the area median income,” she said in a Thursday interview. “It’s really something that you can’t find anywhere in Orange County, even to rent just a single room in a house.”

Funding for the $30 million project comes from various sources – including $3.8 million from Santa Ana and $1.5 million from the county through federal COVID bailout dollars in capital financing. The county’s housing finance trust provided $2.5 million in Mental Health Services Act funding.

Bank of America provided a $15.7 million construction loan about $20 million in tax credit equity. Santa Ana kicked in an additional $1.5 million to provide on site services and 25 housing vouchers. 

Supervisor Katrina Foley, whose office provided $1.5 million from their share of county COVID funds provided by the federal government, said at the groundbreaking Thursday that housing costs are reaching unattainable heights in Orange County.

“A single person can earn up to $80,000 in Orange County to be eligible for affordable section eight housing. That is incredible,” she said. “That doesn’t seem like that would be normal.”

Construction hard hats at a ground breaking for a permanent supportive housing units in Santa Ana on June 15, 2023. Credit: ERIKA TAYLOR, Voice of OC

Mayor Valerie Amezcua said Thursday that there were six housing projects currently underway in Santa Ana and that homelessness has decreased in the city in 2019 to 2020 because of their investments in housing, outreach programs and shelter.

“We’re doing our part,” she said.

“That is a major priority for me and we are all still working on that, because we have a lot of work to do,” she said about homelessness.

According to the 2022 Point in Time Homeless count, there are 990 homeless people in Santa Ana and 508 of them are unsheltered. In 2019, the count showed 1,769 people homeless in the city.

The new homes are being built where a WISEPlace shelter used to stand that serviced 400 women annually. 

Aghasi said all the women in the shelter before construction were placed into housing.

“We’re still operating our shelter services throughout the community, just no longer in this space. But we have homes throughout Orange County where we’re using them as a shelter and a safe haven for women,” she said.

Tammy Hanson and her dog Sadie at the WISEPlace ground breaking event on June 15, 2023. Hanson, a WISEPlace graduate, utilized the services of the nonprofit previously. The site will become permanent supportive housing. Credit: ERIKA TAYLOR, Voice of OC.

The shelter has helped women like Tammy Hanson who called the shelter a building block to a better life.

“It’s the only way to get back on your feet. You can’t get a job living in a bush,” she said. “The importance of having a step up without being degraded is what’s needed. You know what I mean? Because degradation keeps you down.”

Hanson said she overcame a 30-year addiction through the shelter and ended up getting a job as a merchant service processor.

WISEPlace also helped Annie Parks, a Santa Ana resident, keep a roof over her head amid the pandemic.

Annie Parks, 65, at the WISEPlace supportive housing ground breaking on June 15, 2023. Parks formerly utilized the services of the nonprofit, and has since graduated. Credit: ERIKA TAYLOR, Voice of OC.

She said housing projects like this one are needed.

“There’s so many stereotypes floating around out there and accepted by people – they think that anybody who’s homeless is an irresponsible addict and that’s not so,” she said.

“I have a year and a half graduate study. I have a bachelor’s degree. I was a teacher for over 20 years. And I had a lucrative home based business for 13 years, but yet I ended up homeless.”

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.


Since you’ve made it this far,

You obviously care about local news and value good journalism. As an independent and local nonprofit, our news is accessible to all, regardless of what they can afford, but it’s not free to produce. Help us become 100% reader funded with a tax deductible donation. For as little as $5 a month you can help us reach that goal.

Join the conversation: In lieu of comments, we encourage readers to engage with us across a variety of mediums. Join our Facebook discussion. Message us via our website or staff page. Send us a secure tip. Share your thoughts in a community opinion piece.