Canoga Park, Calif.—Confronting two of Los Angeles’ greatest needs at once, Tierra del Sol took the bold step of combining affordable housing with a charter school.

It is the latest project by New Economics for Women (NEW), an economic development corporation created and operated by Latina women.

NEW built Tierra del Sol in an abandoned five-acre site that was once a city-owned maintenance facility. The project is located in Canoga Park, one of the poorest areas of the San Fernando Valley.

When the 119-unit Tierra del Sol apartments opened in July 2005, there were more than 2,000 applicants, according to Bea Stotzer, NEW board president.

The $25 million development features a mix of unit sizes, including three five-bedroom apartments to accommodate large families, Stotzer said, noting that it is believed to be the first low-income housing tax credit project in the state, and perhaps the nation, with five-bedroom apartments. Tierra del Sol is targeted to families with incomes topping out at between 30 percent and 60 percent of the area median income. Monthly rents range from $306 to $936.

The project includes a 3,500-square-foot family resource center that includes a computer room, multipurpose room, several offices, and a conference room. Services include case management, English as a second language classes, financial literacy courses, and parenting programs.

The development’s most unusual aspect, however, is the school, which provides another way to serve the area’s families. NEW worked closely with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to make an elementary school an integral part of the project. The idea for the project goes back about six years to a time when the school district was not in a building mode, Stotzer said. The housing helped ease the way for the campus because school authorities could see that NEW had much of the housing financing and structure in place, she said.

NEW leaders convinced LAUSD officials that they had the land and the will to build the project and help reduce overcrowding at nearby campuses. They agreed to sell the 24-classroom school to the district, which would lease it back to the nonprofit group for $1 a year.

Called the NEW Academy Canoga Park Charter School, the facility opened in 2005 and expects to have more than 400 kindergarten through fifth-grade students in September. The school has a full-size gym, a library, cafeteria, kitchen, and underground parking.

NEW had to create separate entities to develop the school and the housing. It also had to carefully segregate the costs and coordinate the teams working on the development.

The ambitious project will also have a two-story, 15,000-square-foot community center that is in pre-development. The cost of the overall project is approximately $55 million.

The apartments were financed with 4 percent housing tax credits and tax-exempt bonds. Hudson Housing Capital provided about $7.9 million in tax credit equity through two funds. In addition to issuing the bonds, the Los Angeles Housing Department provided a loan of about $6.2 million through HOME and city housing trust funds. The Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency provided another $1.8 million loan through Community Development Block Grants. The state Department of Housing and Community Development contributed a $6.3 million loan from its Multifamily Housing Program. The Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco provided $595,000 through its Affordable Housing Program from member Western Financial Bank. U.S. Bank purchased the tax-exempt bonds on a direct-placement basis and provided a $13.7 million construction loan.

Tierra del Sol recently won a Charles L. Edson Tax Credit Excellence Award in the metropolitan/urban category.