SAN FRANCISCO 990 Polk Street has taken the city's neediest seniors off the streets and given them new apartments. That alone is enough, but the 110-unit development also serves as an example of a project that is tapping new financing sources and serving as a model for green building.
For these reasons, 990 Polk Street is this year's overall winner in AFFORDABLE HOUSING FINANCE's Readers' Choice Awards. It was also selected best seniors project by readers.
Fifty of the apartments are for seniors coming from the streets or homeless shelters while the remaining apartments are for low-income seniors.
Local nonprofits Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corp. (TNDC) and Citizens Housing Corp. teamed to develop 990 Polk last year. “When organizations can bring complementary strengths, then we not only can develop better projects, we can do it while sharing the risk,” says Don Falk, executive director of TNDC.
Originally conceived to house all lowincome seniors, the development added formerly homeless seniors to the mix as part of a city push to move chronically homeless into permanent supportive housing.
The need for the project is evident by the more than 3,500 applications that were received. The formerly homeless residents were referred by local agencies working with the San Francisco Department of Public Health (DPH).
The $35.1 million project utilizes about a half-dozen different funding sources, including $17.4 million in federal low-income housing tax credits awarded by the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee. The credits were syndicated by Enterprise Community Investment, Inc., with Bank of America as the investor.
“What's unique about 990 Polk is that TNDC and Citizens combined a number of solutions to critical needs in senior housing; serving homeless seniors using the city of San Francisco's operating support program, building a beautiful infi ll project meeting all of our Green Communities guidelines, and providing deep services to the residents who will not become isolated as they age,” says Rich Gross, vice president and impact market leader in San Francisco for Enterprise.
The development also emphasizes the connections between health and housing, says Falk. 990 Polk was one of the first new construction projects in the state to receive funding from the state Mental Health Services Act Housing Program that provides capital and support to people with mental health issues.
Local sources were also involved, including the Mayor's Office of Housing, which provided capital funds and technical assistance throughout the development phase. To ensure the building remains fi- nancially secure, DPH provides operating subsidies to the direct referral units.
Few public health departments have as active a housing program as the one in San Francisco, says Marc Trotz, DPH's director of housing and urban health.
“We believe housing is health care,” he says. DPH is helping to fund the rent subsidies and supportive services, including an on-site nurse.
Located on the edge of the Tenderloin district, 990 Polk has helped to improve the neighborhood, replacing a gritty parking lot and an old laundry business.
The project is environmentally sustainable and features Energy Star appliances and a high-efficiency irrigation system, notes Doug Shoemaker, director of the Mayor's Office of Housing. The project was designed by Herman Coliver Locus Architecture and Levy Design Partners.
The nine-story building takes advantage of its corner location and brings in natural light. On the eighth floor, residents have outdoor space to garden and relax. 990 Polk is a fresh start for the residents and the neighborhood.