Residents at Sonoma Court Apartments in Escondido, Calif., will soon be seeing monthly utility bills under $10 due to some significant sustainable renovations. 

Courtesy Affirmed Housing Group
PHOTOS COURTESY AFFIRMED HOUSING GROUP After significant sustainable renovations, Sonoma Court Apartments in Escondido is now virtually net zero.

After undergoing almost a year of renovations, the 61-unit affordable housing development, which serves households earning 35% to 60% of the area median income, is now virtually net zero.

“One of our core missions at Affirmed is to develop and build with the environment at the forefront,” says James Silverwood, president and CEO of Affirmed Housing Group, a San Diego-based affordable housing developer. “As a sustainably conscious company, we aim to develop housing that has a low carbon footprint. Not only is that an important factor to us, but it also helps our residents with energy costs. It’s a real win-win.”

To make the property, which was constructed in 1978, more energy efficient to reach virtually net zero, Affirmed installed a solar photovoltaic system, a central boiler system, highly efficient heat pumps, Energy Star appliances, dual-pane windows, and a new roof with a high Solar Reflective Index.

In addition to the sustainable features, the overall community got a face-lift, with a new pool area, a renovated tot lot, remodeled landscaping with low-water-consuming plants, a renovated laundry facility with new washers and dryers, and a renovated community building.

Courtesy Affirmed Housing Group
Affirmed Housing Group installed a ramp system that works into the design of the site to allow disabled residents' access to the pool and the community building. 

Another important improvement to the community, says Silverwood, was the installation of a ramp system. “Disabled residents now have access to the pool and the community center,” he adds. “It was a real positive addition to the project.”

The units also were freshened up with redesigned kitchens and new flooring, cabinets, counters, bathtubs, and central air units.

“We extended the life of the property by another 30 years of affordable housing,” says Silverwood. “Across the United States, we have lost so much affordable housing moving to market. It’s important for all of us to focus on these rehabilitation efforts.”

The total development cost for Sonoma Court Apartments, which was originally purchased and renovated by Affirmed Housing in the late 1990s, was $13 million, including $4.6 million in hard costs.

The renovations were financed with 4% low-income housing tax credit equity from WNC & Associates and taxable bonds from PNC Bank. The city of Escondido subordinated the existing loans into new ones so the developer didn't have to pay off the existing debt. Additional financing came from Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS program through the County of San Diego Department of Housing and Community Development, California Department of Developmental Services, the Multifamily Affordable Solar Housing program, the energy-efficient home 45L credit, and solar credits.

Partners on the project, which celebrated its grand re-opening at the end of March, included architect Rodriguez Associates Architects & Planners, general contractor HA Builders, civil engineer Masson & Associates, and landscape architect Darsano Design Associates.