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Logan Place opens, meeting need for low-cost housing

Jason Burr and his fiancée Nichole Ruys just moved into their apartment at Logan Place with their children, Bridget (right), Dakota (left) and Cadence. Not pictured is their daughter Alina, 2.

SCOTT MANCHESTER/ ARGUS-COURIER STAFF
Published: Friday, November 1, 2013 at 8:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 10:40 a.m.

Jason Burr and Nichole Ruys have been waiting for a place of their own for more than two years, and last Tuesday, they got it.

That's when they began moving in, along with their four children, to Logan Place apartments, a 66-unit affordable housing complex, built by Burbank Housing, that celebrated its grand opening Monday. Before that, they'd been living at the Mary Isaak Center, Petaluma's homeless shelter.

“This is our place,” said Burr, who had to live separately from Ruys and her children during the two years the spent at the Mary Isaak Center. He said he enjoyed the act of moving the family's belongings into the new apartment. “There's a lot of freedom, we can make meals together, put our things where we think they should be.”

Burr and Ruys, who are engaged and expecting another child in late February, had been looking for an apartment that they could afford and that would accommodate the size of their family. Logan Place was the first to meet those needs, and the company helped the couple resolve an outstanding credit problem so that they could sign a lease.

Logan Place, a $25 million project, consists of studios and one- to three-bedroom apartments meant for households with an annual income of $17,000 to $45,000. It's one of eight multi-family, affordable housing complexes in Petaluma and it's the first to be built in eight years, providing a measure of relief for those seeking low-cost housing in Petaluma.

“It's not a moment too soon,” said Mike Johnson, CEO of the Committee on the Shelterless, which runs the Mary Isaak Center. “It's filling a need in a really big way.”

That need is so great that about 750 people applied for one of the 66 units at Logan Place, according to Pascal Sisich, director of housing development for Burbank Housing.

The city's housing coordinator, Sue Castellucci, said Monday while the city has encouraged numerous affordable housing projects in recent decades, cheap rentals remain scarce in Petaluma. The rental vacancy rate in town is currently at about 2 percent.

The Santa Rosa-Petaluma metro area ranked as the 13th least affordable place in California and the 24th least affordable nationwide according to a “housing opportunity” index created by the National Association of Homebuilders and Wells Fargo. The index, based on data from 2012, compares median earning potential in an area to cost of housing.

The disproportionately high prices mean that low-to-medium wage earners who make enough to be above the cutoff for much subsidized housing may still find themselves priced out of a market rate home.

Many of the roughly 250 people who cycle through the Committee on the Shelterless' emergency shelter each year without finding permanent housing do so not because they're unemployed, but because they're simply not earning enough to meet the high cost of rent, according to Johnson.

But additional affordable housing projects in Petaluma could be a long way off. That's largely because a major funding source for local projects came from redevelopment agencies, which were recently dissolved by the state. Petaluma used some of its redevelopment funds to help builders of affordable housing projects purchase land in town. Burbank Housing, for instance, received more than $7.6 million through the city for Logan Place. To date, Petaluma has not found any replacement for that funding source.

“Redevelopment has really squashed it,” Castellucci said of affordable housing projects in Petaluma. “It's not impossible, but it makes it more challenging.”

Sisich said that his nonprofit organization is keeping a hopeful eye on a senate bill, the California Homes and Jobs Act, that would create a new funding mechanism for affordable housing projects. The bill is currently in the Assembly's appropriations committee.

In the meantime, Burbank is also renovating its 129-unit Round Walk Village apartments on McDowell Boulevard. The apartments, built in the early 1990s, will get new roofs and windows to increase energy efficiency, among other things, Sisich said.

(Contact Jamie Hansen at jamie.hansen@arguscourier.com.)

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