By Acsah Lemma | Special to The OBSERVER

The City of Sacramento is planning an 8-acre housing project on Stockton Boulevard to contain 200 new affordable housing units. The project, which is near West Campus High School, is expected to be completed in January 2024.

The City of Sacramento says it’s crafting a new vision of economic vibrancy and revitalization for Stockton Boulevard – and more affordable housing will play a big role.

The city in September announced plans for a vacant 8-acre lot on Stockton Boulevard to contain 200 new affordable housing units. The project near West Campus High School is expected to be completed in January 2024 and will become nonprofit developer Mercy Housing California’s largest development in the region. Mercy Housing, in collaboration with the city and the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, spearheads the $15 million project.

“These 200 units are part of the city’s nearly 800 affordable units starting or under construction right now,” said Sacramento’s Housing Policy Manager Danielle Foster in a news release. “And they are the first of almost 1,400 planned for the Stockton Boulevard area, which will mostly be affordable and rental housing to help provide affordable options for the local workforce and existing residents.”

Mayor Pro Tem Eric Guerra stated the project is “a unique opportunity to turn an underutilized and vacant lot for the last 12 years into 200 units of affordable housing to meet our regional needs.”

The project will include resident services and programs “to support housing stability, financial literacy, life skills and after-school programs,” according to Guerra’s office.

To ensure the housing units stay affordable, the project was subject to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program. The federal program, created in 1986 and modified several times since, as a way to encourage the construction or rehabilitation of affordable housing through government subsidies.

New affordable housing on Stockton Boulevard will play a critical role in the city’s larger goal to revitalize the corridor through its Stockton Boulevard Plan, according to Sacramento Senior Planner Elizabeth Boyd. The Community Working Version of the plan recently was released to the public. In addition to housing, the plan incorporates workforce and economic development, streetscape improvements and antidisplacement measures, among other things.

“The city has been part of a systemic, unjust system … and we’re trying to repair this by building relationships and making sure people have access and understanding of what’s going on,” Boyd said.

The city made a long-term commitment to “focus investment in these historically disinvested communities without causing displacement,” she added.

Frank Louie, executive director of the Stockton Boulevard Partnership, a group of business and property owners, said the Mercy Housing project will provide multiple benefits to the area, including a more welcoming streetscape.

“As an older business corridor in Sacramento, changing economic circumstances have resulted in several vacant properties,” Louie said. “The result of vacant properties can best be described as a ‘smile with missing teeth.’ Also, the vacant properties act as a magnet for unauthorized encampments of unhoused people resulting in a public safety issue on Stockton Boulevard.”

The project will also offer more housing opportunities for people employed as grocery clerks, gardeners, teachers and others to live in the same neighborhood where they work, Louie predicted. He added that “combined with access to mass transit on the busiest bus line in the city, this project is the type of high-density development that is environmentally sound.”

It’s not the only affordable housing development under way in Sacramento as the city aims to confront its housing and homelessness crisis. The Sacramento City Council on Oct. 25 took another step in this direction by approving more than $35 million to fund 820 new affordable housing units. These will be built in six new developments throughout the city, including in areas off Stockton Boulevard and in Oak Park.

Four of these projects will have units for people experiencing homelessness, and one will provide transitional housing beds for unhouses individuals, according to a press release.

“This is a strategic and deliberate recommendation in our ongoing effort to reduce unsheltered homelessness,” said Mayor Darrell Steinberg in the release. “Building more permanent housing is crucial to keeping and getting people housed.”

This story is a part of the Solving Sacramento journalism collaborative. In 2022, we are focusing on finding solutions to the lack of affordable housing in the Sacramento region. Solving Sacramento is a project of the Local Media Foundation with support from the Solutions Journalism Network. Our partners include California Groundbreakers, Capital Public Radio, Outword, Russian America Media, Sacramento Business Journal, Sacramento News & Review, Sacramento Observer and Univision 19.