Over philosophical objections from two political conservatives, the Fresno City Council approved a $2.2 million package of loans and incentives for a $38 million housing project for low-income families.
The mixed-use development on Blackstone Avenue will feature a health clinic on the ground floor and 88 apartment units for low-income families.
The council’s 5-2 vote clears the way for a development company, Integrated Community Development LLC of Woodland Hills, to apply for more than $12.6 million in state funds, $12.3 million in low-income housing tax credits, and other money that will add up to the total of $38.3 million needed for the development. The commitment of city funds is dependent upon the developers lining up the rest of the money they need for the project.
The project is planned on the west side of Blackstone Avenue south of McKinley Avenue. The 2.9-acre site is now occupied by a collection of automotive-service businesses not far from Fresno City College.
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Councilmen Steve Brandau and Garry Bredefeld both voted against the project, declaring that the state’s requirements for labor wages and environmental upgrades to the construction served to dramatically inflate the costs to build affordable housing in California.
“I support affordable housing and have voted for it in the past,” Bredefeld said. “But we’re asking to suspend financial logic and rationality for this project. … This model is not going to work because of the state mandates and regulations that are onerous and absurd … and I’m not willing to be a part of it.”
Other council members agreed that the state’s rules make little mathematical sense. “In a perfect world, I could find a million ways to do it more efficiently,” said Mayor Lee Brand, who has decades of experience in property management and development.
But, he added, “these are the rules we have to work under.” If Fresno passed on the project, the state grant money for affordable housing would end up going to other cities.
“These (apartments) will house between 350 and 400 people,” Brand told the council. “If this deal does not go through, a good number of those people will be homeless, and they’ll be in your district and my district and become a problem.”