Why do we need this project?
Project Homekey funding is intended for very low-income individuals to help reduce and prevent one of California’s most pressing issues: homelessness. Nearly 1 in 5 county residents live at or below the poverty line, and Homekey projects include a 55-year deed restriction to assure units remain available to those who need them most. Originally intended for conversion properties, the state has opened eligibility to new construction.
Who will be living there?
Park Haven Plaza residents would be a mix of veterans, families with children under 18 and young adults exiting the foster care system. The Housing Authority of Santa Cruz County has already set aside vouchers to support residents and assure they become long-term, successful members of the community. Additionally, the site’s proximity to major transit routes and Cabrillo College help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support the educational mission of former foster youth.
Is Park Haven Plaza for homeless people?
It is long-term, permanent affordable housing. It is not a drop-in center and does not provide day services to the homeless community. The best way to address homelessness is to provide more affordable housing and supportive services, such as financial literacy classes which would only be available to residents. With Santa Cruz County housing prices among the most expensive in the U.S., housing costs are the primary driver of homelessness locally. Research shows that wherever people spend more than 32 percent of their income on housing, homelessness increases rapidly. (See https://www.zillow.com/research/homelessness-rent-affordability-22247/)
Will there be screening for tenants?
Yes. This is not a substance-use treatment center or recovery house, nor will anyone who is legally prevented from living near schools or daycare centers be allowed to move in.
How will we assure people follow the rules?
An onsite manager will enforce house rules and address tenants who are out of compliance. Like any tenants, residents could be subject to eviction if they do not follow rules.
Does affordable housing attract crime and reduce property values?
No. The vast majority of studies have found either no effect or a positive effect on surrounding property values. (See https://furmancenter.org/files/media/Dont_Put_It_Here.pdf) Research has also demonstrated that affordable housing or housing vouchers do not increase crime (https://tinyurl.com/22cajczx).
Will the project impact the environment?
Santa Cruz County has strict environmental laws, including laws protecting riparian corridors. While riparian exceptions allowing development in natural areas are available and many properties in the neighborhood are built within the corridor, this proposal is not seeking an exception. The proposal will follow all applicable environmental laws.
Will the project provide enough parking?
All parking will be onsite, as street parking is not available in the area. There are 16 existing commercial spaces that will remain and 16 new dedicated residential parking spaces proposed. Residents and guests will also be able to use the existing commercial spaces in the evenings when commercial spaces are not in use. Residents without cars would be served by nearby public transit, Lyft, Uber, etc.
Who is the Developer?
Novin Development Corp. is a Walnut Creek-based development company specializing in low-income housing. Iman Novin, the president of the company, grew up in Santa Cruz County and attended Harbor High. He has been studying multifamily housing on the site for quite some time. Low-income, multifamily proposals are assets for all communities in a state facing a significant housing supply crisis, and similar projects have been developed throughout the county, with Mid-County sites including St. Stephen’s, Aptos Blue, Dominican Oaks, Canterbury Park, Seacliff Highlands and the ongoing development at 17th and Capitola in Live Oak.
Has Novin done any work in Santa Cruz before?
Novin Development has done quite a bit of work in the county, including as project manager at the St. Stephen’s Senior Housing development near Harbor High School, and is developing the workforce/market rate/low-income project at 831 Water Street in Santa Cruz.
What role does Project Homekey play in this proposal?
Project Homekey represents a significant opportunity to seek state funding for local communities to reduce homelessness, which is a priority for the County (https://homelessactionpartnership.org/Portals/29/hap/pdf/2021_HousingForHealth-Framework.pdf). The funding is intended to be used as quickly as possible to address the state’s critical housing shortfall, but the program does not circumvent basic building safety requirements. For more on Project Homekey, go to https://homekey.hcd.ca.gov.
What sort of construction will this employ?
The proposal uses modular construction to meet the accelerated timelines under Project Homekey. Modular construction is structurally sound and is initially constructed off-site before being assembled at the project location, which can help reduce neighborhood construction impacts.
Why is its location important?
One of the biggest assets Park Haven Plaza offers is its proximity to Cabrillo College. Cabrillo’s Guardian Scholars program is a highly successful program for former foster youth that has helped hundreds of former foster youth get a college education, transfer to 4-year universities, and go on to rewarding careers. Cabrillo College also has a Veterans Information Center (VIC) which provides Veterans services, and is in close alignment with Santa Cruz County Veterans Services Office. In addition, Cabrillo’s free, non-credit courses and Career Technical Education (CTE) courses are excellent resources for residents of the Homekey Project to train for gainful employment, enabling them to earn a living and even a thriving wage.
Did the community have input in the proposal?
Feedback is always welcome. The initial application was reviewed by the Board of Supervisors during a public meeting, and Supervisor Koenig held a community meeting to listen to community input. In addition, in June he and Novin Development, along with other County representatives, hosted a hybrid in-person/online meeting that drew more than 100 interested parties. That meeting brought up neighbors' issues and concerns, and allowed Novin Development and its partners to answer specific questions about the building, location, onsite services and more.