By Verbal Adam | OBSERVER Correspondent
Oak Park residents will soon have financial assistance for housing-related expenses through the Aggie Square Project, a joint initiative between the City of Sacramento, University of California, Davis and Wexler Science & Technology.
The funds will provide residents with assistance for expenses related to unexpected life occurrences, one-time costs associated with getting residents stable housing and financial assistance toward homebuyer education.
“We need to set aside dollars to make sure that people who are living in their homes in the neighborhoods adjoining Aggie Square can remain in their homes,“ Mayor Steinberg told the press Feb. 3. “And so today we launch the beginning of a $10 million investment funded by the University of California, Davis per our agreement and funded by the city of Sacramento, to the first $2 million to help existing homeowners and renters stay housed.”
Those residents who might qualify for assistance include “somebody who has a need for home repair or if the rent goes up too much, assistance to be able to bridge that gap or emergency assistance if somebody loses a job,” Steinberg said.
The project aims to redevelop the area of Stockton Boulevard and 2nd Avenue known as Aggie Square from its current use as parking lots and UC Davis facilities, to research space for academic and industrial use.
Once completed, the project would add nearly $5 billion annually to the regional economy and create an estimated 25,000 jobs, 20 percent of which would be reserved for people living in the adjoining communities. The agreement also includes a 20 percent investment to significantly improve the transportation networks including the construction of a new section of 3rd Avenue that would connect Stockton Boulevard to 49th Street.
The project has raised an additional $50 million for a Stockton Boulevard affordable housing trust fund, and $43.5 million for housing development, including the Mercy Housing Project which will provide 500 affordable housing units when complete.
Tamika L’Ecluse, vice president of Sacramento Investment Without Displacement, directs a coalition of organizations and residents who work to ensure developments impacting people and small businesses in local communities receive direct investments to prevent gentrification and displacement.
“These programs are responsive to what residents said they needed and are based on program strategies that have proven to keep people in their homes and in their communities,” L’Ecluse said. “We thank the city’s leadership for meaningfully addressing historic disinvestment too many of our communities have faced. We look forward to working with the city to adopt additional policies that will ensure that no resident is displaced from the space that they call home.”
The Mayor’s office said four community organizations will receive funding to repair homes, help residents with one-time financial assistance for rent, utilities and other needs and assist first-time home buyers in the zip codes surrounding Aggie Square. Each program takes a different approach. When combined, they will provide a comprehensive, anti-displacement strategy.
- Habitat for Humanity of Greater Sacramento Home Preservation and Electrification Program ($560,000) – Habitat will be working with residents in owner-occupied properties to address critical health and safety repairs to improve livability, accessibility, and to reduce the threat of displacement. Habitat will also continue to expand its partnership with the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) to provide energy efficiency repairs and electrification upgrades for qualified homeowners, including two full-home gas to electric conversions. The program anticipates serving as many as 50 households.
- The Salvation Army Homeless Prevention Program ($500,000) – This program will provide one-time assistance with expenses related to an unexpected life occurrence (e.g. medical expenses, car repair, etc.) or rent, mortgage or utility assistance. This program estimates serving 50-90 households, depending upon level of need and will also refer the people it helps to the City of Sacramento’s Financial Empowerment Center.
- Step Up Homeless Prevention, Housing Coordination, Stability and Retention Program ($530,000) – This program will help cover one-time costs associated with getting into housing as well as assist with finding available housing. This program estimates serving approximately 100 people.
- Unseen Heroes/CLTRE First-time Homebuyer Loan Program ($500,000) – With this 18-month contract, Unseen Heroes will work with a pool of 50 or more households to improve their credit and budgeting skills in preparation for homeownership, including partnering in providing financial literacy classes, homebuyer education, and/or other Financial Empowerment Center referrals. At least 25 households will work towards identifying the path to homeownership and will obtain down payment assistance, closing costs and/or secondary loan gap funding from the program to further opportunities for increased housing stability and inter-generational wealth-building.
This program will assist approximately 50 households with financial literacy, budgeting and credit repair, with 25 of those households following a pathway to homeownership.
“I am proud to continue our fight to help families achieve homeownership and stay in their homes through much-needed home repair and assistance,” Vice Mayor Eric Guerra said. “Projects like Aggie Square can lead the way in how we can create more quality job opportunities, build affordable and mixed-income housing, and keep our existing neighbors in their communities,”
Guerra added such programs “advance our climate goals by assisting homeowners transition to electric appliances and building additional fully electric homes.”
The Aggie Square project is holding an in-person meeting on February 9 from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Oak Park Community Center. On the agenda for the meeting is an overview of 500-plus local affordable housing units and upcoming home repair and housing stabilization programs and timelines.