AMCAL News Articles

November 11, 2014

Affordable Housing with Renaissance Style

The AMCAL multi-housing plan for Terracina in Agoura Hills, CA, was approved in 2011 and construction started in 2013. The community was built on a large parcel, which was vacant for many years and in need of redevelopment (about 5 acres worth). County had funding targeted for unincorporated “island” areas like this, and large site allowed many units so County could increase affordable housing counts required by the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA).

The housing plan has 72 apartments, designed in an Italianate style, with a large courtyard. In the Italianate style, the models and architectural vocabulary of 16th-century Italian Renaissance architecture, which had served as inspiration for both Palladianism and Neoclassicism, were synthesised with picturesque aesthetics. The design most likely inspired the name Terracina, which is a town and comune of the province of Latina – (until 1934 of the province of Rome), Italy, 76 kilometres (47 miles) southeast of Rome by rail and 56 kilometres (35 mi) by the Via Appia by car.

However, the multi-housing complex is not all about aesthetics. Terracina is also environmentally conscious, achieving the rare LEED Gold certified rating, by using xeriscape, Energy Star appliances, Low-Vac paints, and 75 percent of debris diverted from landsfills.

There are four levels of certification – the number of points a project earns determines the level of LEED certification that the project will receive. Typical certification thresholds are: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum, in that order.

If you’re serious about saving money, conserving energy, reducing water consumption, improving indoor air quality, making better building material choices, and driving innovation, then LEED is the best choice. Bar none.

Third-party certification verifies that your project is designed, built and operating the way it was intended. It is also your first step toward managing your building through its entire lifecycle.

LEED-certified buildings cost less to operate, reducing energy and water bills by as much as 40 percent. Businesses and organizations across the globe use LEED to increase the efficiency of their buildings, freeing up valuable resources that can be used to create new jobs, attract and retain top talent, expand operations and invest in emerging technologies.

LEED buildings have faster lease-up rates and may qualify for a host of incentives like tax rebates and zoning allowances. Not to mention they retain higher property values.

The development is funded by an allocation of $13,747,000 in 9 percent Low-Income Housing Tax Credits that was awarded in 2012. Los Angeles County will fund the community via HOME and City of Industry.

It was important to build this development in order to Redevelop an underutilized site, and clean up a past dump site. There is a great need in south L.A. County for affordable housing because of the high poverty rate.

The apartments are ideally located near many municipal resources, such as a sheriff station, community college, light rail and bus lines, market, hospital, school, and park. Apart from the large courtyard with tot lot, the community has a barbecue area, and community garden. There are 15 units reserved for Transitional-Age Youths who are aging out of foster care.

The brains behind the project can be attributed to the Withee Malcolm Architects created the attractive design with meshing colors, angled roofs with tower elements, and façade articulation that further improves Withee Malcolm’s reputation as an excellent designer of affordable housing, despite limited resources associated with tight budgets for affordable developments. Family households and transitional-age youths will empower themselves, with social services support, to move into better jobs and ownership housing as their incomes improve.

Families save money because of lower utility bills (energy efficient appliances, Title 24 requirements) and lower transportation costs (next to rail and bus lines, can walk to amenities). AMCAL (developer) now has built 52 affordable communities in California, demonstrating that affordable housing and beautiful buildings can be developed.

“These units are really needed in all of California where you have a big affordable living gap on what some can afford for housing,” Arjun Nagarkatti, AMCAL’s president said. “Programs like this enable subsidized rents and these complexes look and feel like any other market rate complex so you wouldn’t be able to distinguish an affordable housing from any other.”

As far as building challengers, there was a capped oil well (though dry) – which they confirmed to have no methane leakage and added passive methane mitigation system. Deep canyon onsite served as dumpsite for the large quantities of asbestos and lead that were removed, and filled/compacted to great flat, stable pad for long concrete podiums (mat podiums).

Support was obtained from the area community group, which was concerned with typical complaints stereotypes related to “the projects” (poor maintenance, crime).

The Terracina Apartments will be encompassed within the jurisdiction of the Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles. The one-, two- and three-bedroom apartment units will provide contemporary living for residents with patios overlooking the large landscaped park, storage space, modern kitchens and bathrooms.

“It will also help leverage additional public investments through economic development incentive programs in the area,” Nagarkatti says. “This helps contribute to the ongoing revitalization and redevelopment of the area.” AMCAL explained that we have hands-on property management to resolve problems or repairs quickly, with rigorous tenant qualification, social services to empower residents, and attractive design to increase sense of pride and ownership.

The development has had a lot of influence on future projects, including inspiring a diligent environmental review, budgeting methods and planning for brownfield sites.

What’s next for AMCAL are family households and transitional-age youths who will empower themselves, with social services support, to move into better jobs and ownership housing as their incomes improve.

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