Linda housing project awaits key votes
An affordable housing project in Linda may sink if two districts decide not to share the cost of improving their own systems, a developer said this week.
The Grove, a 49-unit apartment complex to be built just south of North Beale Road, is an affordable housing project that could provide Linda with cheaper homes — a much-needed addition to the community, said Bill Spann, principal of Pacific West Communities Inc.
But the $10.5 million project has run into unexpected obstacles. Development requires that the complex be connected to sewage lines and a drainage water pump station, which are both at capacity, he said.
More than $500,000 is needed to make the improvements, so Pacific West asked Reclamation District 784 and the Linda County Water District to share some of the cost: $165,000 and $150,000, respectively.
"Whether we do our project or not, the sewer needs to be improved," Spann said.
The water district will make its decision by April, said district manager Doug Lofton, but will likely vote to contribute to the sewage line improvements.
However, the district is still sorting out the details.
"There's a lot of things that still need to happen," Lofton said.
Steve Fordice, general manager of the reclamation district, said he expects the board to make a decision at the group's Feb. 5 board meeting. He remains hopeful that the district can help.
"It always makes sense to me to create affordable housing for everybody," Fordice said. "I would like to see more development and more jobs."
According to Spann, Pacific West conducted a market study in the Linda area that showed a need for more than 200 affordable homes.
For Pacific West, having the districts share the cost of offsite improvements means more than just being able to complete the construction of The Grove.
In addition to the "double whammy" of upgrading water systems in two districts, Bill Spann, principal of Pacific West Communities Inc., said the company has a limited amount of time to complete its project because of time-sensitive government funding.
The funding, an allocation of tax credits, could be lost if Pacific West can't come up with the money to build The Grove by April 2015. If the company fails to do so — or doesn't have enough money to make the offsite improvements — the project could die, Spann said.
If The Grove cannot be completed, Pacific West will have a difficult time receiving government funding for future projects and will be ineligible to apply for the same tax credits for two years, he said. Being unable to pay the company's many employees without project funding would strap the Northern California developer financially.
"It would be very detrimental," Spann said.
The tax credit money being used to develop The Grove is one of the last sources of funding for the project, Spann said. The chances of getting the credits in the first place was about the same as "hitting the lotto," he said, so losing the money would be devastating.
"It's a very serious situation," Spann said.
The situation has arisen because hundreds of thousands of dollars are needed to improve Linda's water system in order to make housing developments.
Yuba County Supervisor John Nicoletti said it has been difficult to make the utility improvements because house and land values have been low following the collapse of the housing market.
Before the market crashed, Linda was on the brink of putting in new water systems, he said. But those developments were also affected by a struggling economy.
"It's been a challenge for affordable housing in Yuba County," Nicoletti said.
But the water system could see at least minor changes if the districts agree to assist Pacific West in making offsite improvements.
To connect the project and make it work, Linda County Water District manager Doug Lofton said a large stretch of 12-inch sewage line would need to be added to the existing main, which was at capacity following a study in 2007.
The reclamation district would have to make improvements to an old water pump that is attached to surrounding storm drains, the district's manager Steve Fordice said.
For now, however, the systems in question have reached their limits, and the fate of The Grove rests in the districts' hands.