BERKELEY, CALIF.—It’s a big deal that Cristina Cross has had her own apartment since September.

She’s among the first residents at a new affordable housing development built for youths who were homeless or at risk of homelessness.

“Now, I have a stable place that I can call my own,” said Cross, who works as a peer counselor and goes to school with plans to become a social worker.  Prior to moving into Harmon Gardens, Cross said she had been “moving around.”

Her new housing development features 15 studio apartments for young adults between 18 and 24 years old, including some of the more than 600 Bay Area youths discharged from foster care upon turning 18 each year. There’s also a manager’s unit.

“Harmon Gardens offers safe, comfortable, and healthy housing coupled with a high level of services to support these young adults as they learn to live independently and successfully in their communities,” said Susan Friedland, executive director of Affordable Housing Associates (AHA), the nonprofit developer. “Housing developed by AHA are more than places to live--they are places of support, growth, and opportunity.”

The apartments are reserved for individuals earning no more than 50 percent of the area median income. Ten units are set aside for residents who qualify under the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) as having a severe mental illness or emotional disturbance.

Most residents have little or no income and rely on rental assistance from the project-based Sec. 8 program or through a capitalized operating reserve funded by MHSA.

Because of the special population, AHA aims to provide more than shelter. Through a partnership with Fred Finch Youth Center and Berkeley Mental Health, Harmon Gardens offers support programming to transitioning youth, including employment and education counseling, physical and mental health workshops, self-sufficiency skills development, and community-building events.

Designed by HKIT Architects and constructed by Midstate Construction Co., the development was built using the latest green products, including solar panels to provide energy needed for lighting the common areas and heating and hot water for the common areas and residential apartments. The project is expected to achieve a LEED platinum rating as a pilot participant for development of the Multifamily High Rise LEED for Homes rating system.

The $5.4 million development was financed largely with federal stimulus money coming in the form of low-income housing tax credit exchange funds from the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee.

Other financing partners include the city of Berkeley, Alameda County, California Housing Finance Agency, Northern California Community Loan Fund, Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco and Torrey Pines Bank, Corporation for Supportive Housing, Alameda County Waste Management Authority, and the Berkeley Housing Authority.