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San Juan Capistrano could put $1.4 million state grant toward affordable housing project at City Hall

San Juan Capistrano could get more than $1.4 million over five years to build affordable housing – possibly a 50-unit complex on its current City Hall site – through a state grant program meant to boost low-income housing development in cities and counties.

The City Council on Tuesday laid out its intended use of the funds, and authorized county leaders to apply for the money on behalf of the city. California’s Housing and Community Development Department had given notice last year that the $1,418,712 in funding was available to San Juan Capistrano through the state’s Permanent Local Housing Allocation grant program, officials said.

Once awarded, county officials would dole out the money, which may be requested in increments.

City officials proposed using the grant to help fund a 50-unit permanent supportive housing development that could be added to the City Hall property, a portion of which was rezoned in 2016 after the property was identified as a spot where affordable housing could be built.

City leaders last year entered into an exclusive negotiation agreement with Irvine-based Jamboree Housing Corporation to examine the feasibility of the complex, which would include permanent housing for people who were previously homeless or are at risk of being unhoused, and come with around-the-clock services provided through Jamboree and on-site county social services, according to a 2020 staff report describing the ENA.

The project is still being explored, said Joel Rojas, San Juan Capistrano’s director of development services.

Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, who represents San Juan Capistrano on the Board of Supervisors, said the City Hall site would be a “perfect location for expanded affordable housing and permanent supportive housing.”

Because San Juan Capistrano has less than 50,000 residents, the allocated grant funds must be applied for through the county, and approved by the Board of supervisors, she said. The Permanent Local Housing Allocation grant program was created through the Building Homes and Jobs Act, a law enacted in 2017 that established a $75 recording fee on real estate documents to fund assistance to cities and counties for affordable housing.

As part of the application process, city officials had to identify how they planned to use the money, Rojas said, “and so since we are working on this potential affordable housing project at City Hall, that’s what we identified as as a potential use of those funds.”

Bartlett said she was “very supportive” of the city’s request for the funds, and hoped to fast track its appearance on the county’s agenda, “so that we can get the approval done at the board level, hopefully as soon as possible, and then be able to report back to the city that they’ve got their approval and the green light to move forward.”

“I’m just very excited to see a good project,” Bartlett said. “They are taking proactive measures to help solve the affordable housing and permanent supportive housing needs in their city.”

If the project pans out, the 50 affordable units would contribute to the city’s housing goal, Rojas said. An assessment performed in 2012 identified a need for 638 housing units in San Juan Capistrano across different income groups between 2013 and 2021, according to that 2020 staff report. The permanent supportive housing development would offer units to those in very low income households, earning 50% or less of the area’s median income.

Rojas said the state grant would help achieve the funding needed for the project, which is still being parsed out.

“It’s a very complicated puzzle that we’re trying to sort out to make sure there’s enough money from all the different funds to fund the project,” Rojas said. “Once we reach a point that we think, ‘Ok, yeah, we can make this pencil out.’ That’s when we can say, ‘Ok, I think we’re ready to move forward.’”

A proposed piece of the project that includes new City Hall offices would not be funded with the state grant, he said.

Laura Stokes, San Juan Capistrano’s housing coordinator and associate planner, said in an email the county expects to submit its application to the state in November, and “it will likely take a few months before the funding is allocated.”

If the City Hall project is approved, “we will likely request one or possibly two disbursements,” Stokes said. “If we determine that the funds are better for an alternative use, they may end up being dispersed variously over the next five years depending on what use we ultimately identify for the funds.”

Source: Orange County Register

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