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Sunnyvale contributes money to affordable housing redevelopment project

After listening to testimony from local advocates and parents of developmentally disabled adults, the Sunnyvale City Council voted unanimously March 29 to approve contributing $6 million to the redevelopment of Orchard Gardens Apartments, which will result in 87 units of affordable housing. Roughly half the units will be reserved for people with developmental disabilities.

The apartment complex is an existing affordable housing community located at 245 W. Weddel Drive with two buildings that were built in 1961 and were originally market-rate rentals. When current owner First Community Housing purchased the property in 1998, 20 more units in two new buildings were added. The property has since been used for affordable housing.

First Community Housing asked the city council to approve giving the $6 million to help pay for the demolition of the 32 oldest units and also rehabilitate 30 units and construct a new four-story building. Of the newly constructed apartments, 43 will be reserved for tenants with special needs.

"In Sunnyvale there are 578 people living with developmental disabilities at home with parents and guardians. That is 89 percent of the total of 651 who have developmental disabilities. That's a very high percentage. It's higher than just about any other city in Santa Clara County due to a lack of housing," said Jan Stokley, executive director of Housing Choices Coalition.

Several residents spoke to the council urging each member to consider approving the funding for the project. Speakers said that the project would help their adult children with disabilities live more independent lives.

"My son is 23 and I'm a senior. He would like and needs his own space, as do I. We're not looking for someone to care for us. We would just like to have housing that is affordable and reachable," said Joann Gines, a resident.

Resident Amy Jasper described to the council the difficulties facing her developmentally disabled son, David, when finding housing.

"We love Sunnyvale, and it should be a role model for other cities," she said. "My son is 33 and will probably outlive us, but he only gets about $800 a month from [Supplemental Security Income]. It's not a lot to pay for rent, buy food and pay medical bills."

The council's unanimous vote came after brief discussion from the council members.

"It's wonderful to hear your stories firsthand," Vice Mayor Gustav Larsson told the audience. "I know there is so much need in the community for all sorts of housing, but to hear your stories was very touching. This is a great use of funds and meets an important need in the community."

The total cost of the project is estimated at $34 million, much of which is paid for by tax credits. The city's $6 million contribution comes from a housing mitigation fund, which come from impact fees paid by industrial and office developers. The fees go toward building affordable housing.

A representative from First Community Housing told the council that the renovations will be done in phases so that tenants will not be displaced for more than a few months. The group has also budgeted for the temporary relocation of some tenants during construction.

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