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Watsonville Affordable Housing Development Provides Families Access To Childcare And Transit

Case Story

After nearly a decade of planning and work Via del Mar was completed in 2005.

The project includes:

  • Exceptional affordability based on a mix of 1-3 bedroom units that will rent to extremely low, very low and low-income families.
  • A childcare facility with capacity for 32 children.
  • A central location at the Watsonville Transit Center
  • Reuse of a previously underutilized piece of land owned by the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District
  • City assistance of $1.64 million that leveraged $10.66 million resulting in total project funds of $12.3 million
  • A creative partnership among the city, the transit district and a non-profit housing developer, involving a ground lease from the district to the city and in turn to the non-profit developer.
Maximizing Efficiency

The parcel, approximately 2/3 of an acre in size, is located one block from the downtown Plaza. In July 2002, the city’s request for proposals called for a 21-unit 2-story “garden apartment” style project. However, upon analysis Mid-Peninsula Housing Coalition found that the design didn’t work well for families with children and recommended increasing the density and building atop a parking podium.

The coalition felt strongly that the project could be designed at a higher density and result in a more livable community with more play space for children and fortunately, the city understood that high density doesn’t necessarily translate into an inferior project.

Mid-Peninsula secured the contract and hired architect Michael Pyatok to design the project, at a density of 61 units/acre with parking for 62 cars. Features include lots of sunlight through bay windows and an open-air internal courtyard on top of the parking podium that will provide outdoor play space for the children, as well as a community center with a computer lab for residents.


Putting together $12.3 million in funding from multiple sources proved to be the most difficult aspect of the project. The City’s share includes a $1,215,000 “residual receipts” loan from the redevelopment agency’s 20 percent Low and Moderate Income Housing Fund and other grants for the childcare center totaling approximately $430,000.

Other sources of permanent financing include 4 percent tax credits and loans from the California Housing Finance Agency, the State Multi-family Housing Program (Proposition 46 money), California HOME Investment Partnership Program, the Federal Home Loan Bank’s Affordable Housing Program. The project also received several grants, including $600,000 from the State Department of Housing and Community Development’s Joe Serna Jr., Farm Worker Housing Grant Program.


Sixteen units will rent to families earning 30-35 percent of area median income (AMI), and 23 units will rent to families at the 50-60 percent AMI income level. (The 40th unit is reserved for the on-site residential manager).

The project is decidedly pro-family, with 33 of the 40 units consisting of 2 and 3 bedrooms. Half of the 32 childcare slots will be subsidized, and project residents will have preference for the childcare.

The lesson in all of this: partnerships and persistence make the difference, but none of it is possible without serious financial subsidy to ensure affordability.


Ana Ventura-Phares, Mayor, City of Watsonville


Please note:

Content in this case story may be out of date, or tools used to accomplish the outcomes may no longer be available.  However, in concept this story may still offer a good example.

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