Father Joe’s Villages is moving closer to its goal of creating 2,000 affordable homes to help people overcome homelessness in San Diego.
The longtime nonprofit, in collaboration with Chelsea Investment Corp., is nearing completion of the 14-story, 407-unit Saint Teresa of Calcutta Villa project that will open early next year.
The $148 million development stands out for its size and density, and it will also feature a high percentage of supportive housing with 270 units targeting some of the city’s neediest individuals. It is the most ambitious project in the 70-year history of Father Joe’s Villages.
“The building is designed with a lot of community space,” says Bill Bolstad, chief operating officer at Father Joe’s Villages. “When we work with people who have been living unsheltered on the street, we often find that when they come inside and they’re living in their own apartment, they can feel very isolated. A lot of people on the streets have a community they live with and interact with day to day. Now, they are by themselves. We have put community space on every floor, and we’ll be using service providers to activate that space and make sure we are finding ways to help residents come out of their apartments and engage with their neighbors.”
Saint Teresa of Calcutta Villa will have 24 one- and 26 two-bedroom apartments with the remainder being studio units in downtown San Diego. Residents will have access to on-site services as well as all the programs at Father Joe’s Villages’ adjacent campus.
The $148 million development is being funded with 4% low-income housing tax credits, tax-exempt bonds, and several programs administered by the state Department of Housing and Community Development, including Supportive Housing Multifamily Housing Program, Infill Infrastructure Grant Program, Veterans Housing and Homelessness Prevention, and Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities. There’s also support from the county of San Diego, the San Diego Housing Commission, and a landmark private $10 million contribution from San Diego-based philanthropist Terry Caster. The project’s tax credit investor is Raymond James Tax Credit Funds, and Citibank is providing construction and permanent debt.
For decades, Father Joe’s Villages has been providing housing, health care, and other services to people experiencing homelessness in the region, but its leaders recently made the decision to do even more, launching the Turning the Key initiative to create 2,000 more units of affordable housing as soon as possible.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta Villa is central to that effort.
The move comes at a time when the city and county of San Diego had an estimated homeless population of 7,638 last year. It also has one of the nation’s largest populations of veterans experiencing homelessness with 940.
The first project to be completed under the nonprofit’s Turning the Key initiative is Benson Place, which provides 82 units of supportive housing along with an additional manager’s unit. While the Saint Teresa development is a new construction project, Benson Place involved the conversion of an old E-Z 8 motel.
The San Diego development welcomed its first residents in August 2020 after going through an extensive seven-month renovation that included adding kitchenettes to each unit. The 88-unit motel was converted to 83 apartments in order to create community space and offices for resident services.
The project also had to navigate the complexities brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The residents were coming from homeless situations, so being able to move into their own homes during the pandemic was monumental for them.
While Benson Place isn’t able to achieve the density of the Saint Teresa of Calcutta Villa project, the motel conversion has other benefits, including being less costly and being able to get units online quicker, says Deacon Jim Vargas, president and CEO of Father Joe’s Villages.
“What we set out to do, we were able to accomplish it,” he says, explaining that the team understand the extent of renovation needed, and the project stayed true to form.
Vargas’ organization is exploring the possibility of doing additional motel conversions.
The approximately $24 million development was financed with 9% low-income housing tax credits as well as funding from San Diego County, the San Diego Housing Commission, and the California Housing Finance Agency. Benson Place is named after Judy Benson and her late husband, Roger Benson, founder of Rescue Rooter, who provided a nearly $3 million gift.
“We looked at different models to find cost-effective ways to do this,” says Bolstad. “With what we’ve seen right now, we are confident in motel conversions. It doesn’t mean there won’t be other solutions in the future.”