Irvine, Calif.—By allowing more families to live near where they work, a new affordable housing development promises to ease traffic congestion and improve the quality of life in one of Southern California’s major employment centers.

Although this Orange County enclave offers lots of jobs, housing costs are too high for many of those workers to live in Irvine. Irvine-based nonprofit Jamboree Housing Corp. (JHC) aims to help solve that problem with the 16-unit Montecito Vista Apartment Homes, completed here in October 2005.

The $22 million project features two- and three-bedroom garden-style units for tenants with incomes topping out at 30 percent and 50 percent of the area median income. Monthly rents in this new development, where the units range in size from 946 square feet to 1,080 square feet, are almost two-thirds lower than the market rents for the area.

Ten tenants will also benefit from Sec. 8 project-based vouchers specific to this transaction.

“This is in a community with skyrocketing rental and housing costs,” said Carolyn Hudson of JHC. “In fact, one-third of all Irvine residents would qualify for the income requirements of this project.”

Montecito Vista is the first phase of a redevelopment overseen by master developer The Irvine Co. (TIC) that includes an adjacent community park, high school, post office, and technology center. It’s also near two for-sale townhome developments and two blocks from The Marketplace, a regional retail center with restaurants, movie theaters, and stores. The University of California at Irvine and a handful of community and private colleges are close by as well.

“Because it’s an infill project, we did extensive community outreach,” said Laura Archuleta, JHC president. There were concerns about increased traffic and changing the site from commercial to residential use.

Innovative traffic flow redesign and high-quality amenities convinced neighbors that this is affordable housing to be proud of, said Archuleta. Having a 16-year track record with successful affordable housing projects also gave JHC credibility, she added.

“At the groundbreaking, those neighbors were there,” she said. “Our developments stand the test of time.”

Tenants at Montecito Vista have access to a computer lab and self-sufficiency programs and services. Residents volunteer for after-school tutoring, arts and crafts, and many social events.

“We [also] create and maintain partnerships with several schools, churches, nonprofits, and civic and community organizations that afford a full complement of programs,” said Hudson. These include classes and services related to parenting, education, emergency food and rental assistance, health, and employment—all at little or no cost to the residents.

The complex also exceeds state energy-efficiency standards by more than 15 percent, lowering energy consumption and providing another cost-saving benefit to residents, said Hudson.

The city of Irvine made an initial $900,000 investment in the project. It was also financed with $8.9 million in tax-exempt bonds purchased by U.S. Bank; $8.1 million in low-income housing tax credit equity from TIC; and $3.8 million in financing from the county of Orange.

TIC also provided the land lease and a $250,000 loan.

In effect, JHC was able to leverage an additional $23 in funding for every dollar the city of Irvine contributed.