AMCAL News Articles

February 01, 2010

Stimulus Dollars Give Boost to Affordable Housing

By Sabrina Rodriguez, Eyewitness News
Originally printed at http://www.bakersfieldnow.com/news/local/82992012.html

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — There’s a high demand for affordable housing in Kern County, but there aren’t enough units to go around.

For some residents, such as Rose Azua, getting into affordable housing would be life changing. Azua has been trying to get into low-income/affordable housing for the past four years, because her blindness has her living on a fixed income from Social Security.

“It’s been a bit of a struggle, but I have been doing it,” Azua said about getting by. “I have to. I’ve got kids.”

She added getting into affordable housing would make her life better because, “I could have more to do with my children.”

Azua said she spends almost her entire Social Security check on rent, and she’s not alone.

“We have many, many families, seniors and disabled people who are paying more than 50 percent of their income to rent,” explained Stephen Pelz, executive director of the Kern County Housing Authority.

Pelz said they have hundreds of people on a waiting list to get into affordable housing.

Rosie Rentria was one of the lucky ones to get into a low-income apartment in east Bakersfield, where she pays $415 a month for a two bedroom.

“(The apartment is) very nice,” Rentria said. “It’s a good community. No problems here.” While Rentria was fortunate, the waiting list is still growing.

But help is on the way.

On Wednesday, the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee awarded $61.5 million in stimulus funds to 10 affordable housing projects in Kern County. Four projects will be in Bakersfield, two in Mojave, one each in Arvin, Delano, Tehachapi and Shafter.

The stimulus money is being put to use right away.

Assistant Economic Development Director Rhonda Barnhard said in two weeks construction will begin on a vacant lot located at 701 Union Ave. It will be called Santa Fe Apartments when it’s done and feature 56 new units of affordable housing.

“It’ll be a very attractive project when completed,” said Barnhard. “It will help to revitalize Union Avenue.”

Barnhard expects the apartments to be done in year, but Azua hopes she won’t have to wait that long.

“Hopefully in the next month I’ll be in another home,” said Azua. “(On) Section 8, paying low
income.”

A total of about 640 new affordable housing units will be built in Kern County because of the stimulus money.

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