San Francisco—The city’s neediest residents have found a home at a new development that brings together housing and health services.
The recently completed Plaza Apartments represents a fresh start for men and women who were homeless or on the brink of living on the streets. In addition, many of the residents suffer from medical, mental, and/or substance-abuse problems.
Developed by the Public Initiatives Development Corp., a subsidiary of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency (SFRA), the Plaza features 106 studio units of permanent supportive housing in a building that has been recognized for its green design.
Twenty-three of the initial residents moved in directly from the streets and local shelters. An additional 71 applicants were referred by health-care and treatment programs.
“[The group] is among the most difficult populations to serve,” said Olson Lee, executive director of the development corporation. “This housing is special because we are serving the neediest.”
Underscoring the point that housing is a health issue, the city Department of Public Health (DPH) brought its expertise and resources to the project. In an unusual move, the health agency is providing rent subsidies for 97 units through its Direct Access to Housing program. This equates to a roughly $417 per unit monthly subsidy.
Although the apartments target residents earning no more than 40 percent of the area median income (AMI), the actual AMI of the population averages less than 20 percent.
The union of housing and health services goes even further. DPH is providing a full-range of on-site support, including a psychiatrist, a nurse, and a nurse practitioner.
In addition, the nine-story Plaza uses green design and building techniques, and it marks a significant improvement to a blighted corner of the city.
The project was built on an underutilized urban infill site. The new apartments replace a single-room occupancy hotel in which 37 units shared 1.5 bathrooms. At the Plaza, each resident has a studio apartment with his or her own bathroom and kitchenette.
The project was recognized with a green design award from the American Institute of Architects. In addition to selecting environmentally friendly building materials, developers installed a solar energy system, which they hope will generate about 12 percent of the project’s power needs and save $8,500 or more per year in utility costs. Controlling operating costs will help keep rents low.
“We took the opportunity to push the envelope and try to make this a green building, so we can understand what it would take to make the rest of our [future] portfolio green,” Lee said.
Designed by Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects and Paulett Taggart Architects, the ground floor has retail space, and the basement will offer theater and performance space.
The Plaza was supported by the Enterprise organization through its national Green Communities initiative, launched more than a year ago by Enterprise and the National Resources Defense Council.
Key project financing included low-income housing tax credits allocated by the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee, which provided about $11 million in equity. Enterprise Community Investment, Inc., syndicated the tax credits, and Fannie Mae was the investor. SFRA provided another $11 million through tax-increment funds. Citibank was the other financial partner, providing a $10.5 million construction loan. The John Stewart Co. is the property manager.