Ontario, Calif.—New apartments being built here by Simpson Housing Solutions, LLC (SHS), are helping alleviate the shortage of affordable independent housing for seniors, one of the fastest growing segments of the population in Southern California.

Prior to the construction of Mountain View Senior Apartments, the vacancy rate for affordable seniors housing in the city was less than 1 percent. The average waiting period for a senior to move into a rent-restricted unit was approximately one year, said Michael Costa, SHS president.

“Seniors housing [has been] a primary focus for the entire life of our company,” said Costa, who has developed seniors housing for more than 15 years.

The 20-unit second phase of the 106-unit Mountain View is set to finish construction by December 2006, two years after the 86-unit first phase was completed. The property is being built on land that previously housed a car dealership along with several auto-body repair businesses and a donut shop.

Mountain View’s second phase required the most complex financing the developer has ever faced, including negotiating a long-term ground lease from the city (which in effect donated the site); deferring developer fees; and holding a $487,000 “gap” note with the Ontario Redevelopment Agency against soft residual receipts.

The cost of materials rose 30 percent from last year, and 20 percent from the prior year, according to Costa. “We needed the gap financing … and putting that together was a challenge.”

In addition to $2.3 million in federal and state low-income housing tax credit equity from Bank of America, the project also received HOME funds and local housing set-aside funds. SHS was the tax credit syndicator and Foundation for Affordable Housing II, Inc., was the general managing partner that applied for the tax credits.

“It’s the little things that make a difference” in edging out other tax credit applicants in the competition, said Costa. “It’s critical in * project like this to get letters of support from the neighborhood and the city.

“That’s why we spent time meeting with the neighborhood and discuss[ing] how we planned to design and operate the project. We want to break down NIMBYism, and this is one of the ways to attain success.”

One strategy was to take neighbors on a bus tour to look at what had been accomplished in the first phase and let them comment on the design and layout of the second, he added.

Mountain View also qualified for the city’s density bonus by providing high-quality architectural features that captured the California Craftsman look predominating in nearby older neighborhoods. The project uses materials and construction methods designed to increase energy efficiency at least 20 percent above state standards.

In addition, a 2,634-square-foot community center, pool and spa, fitness room, and computer lab will be built here.

Services provided to seniors here include a free wellness program, which involves exercise and fitness classes, monthly lectures on various topics, and resources provided by community-based public and private agencies.

The site is also near grocery stores, public transportation, pharmacies, banks, and the recently renovated Ontarao Senior Center.