Seniors return to new digs at Washington Plaza apartments

06/17/2014 6:15 PM

06/18/2014 7:46 AM

Paul Maryland was one of the few people unpacking boxes and placing clothes hangers in his closet on the upper floor of a Mansion Flats midrise on Tuesday.

“This is my spot,” the 66-year-old said emphatically, pointing outside through the living room window. “You think I’m going to give up this amazing view? It’s wonderful.”

Maryland and other low-income seniors returned to their homes at the Washington Plaza apartments for the first time Tuesday since the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency completed extensive renovation work on some of the 76 housing units.

“These individuals don’t have the ability to pay market-rate rent,” said executive director LaShelle Dozier. “That’s why this project is important. We step in to fill in the gap.”

The average monthly rent this year is $222, Dozier said.

SHRA partnered with San Francisco-based developer Bridge Housing to make repairs on the 43-year-old building. Under an 11-month retrofitting phase, which started in January, workers began removing asbestos, upgrading the plumbing and electrical units, enlarging the community space on the ground floor and expanding space in the current dwellings.

The project also enables Bridge to make the nine-story building at 1318 E St. more energy efficient. Each apartment will contain green appliances, higher-efficiency windows and low-flow shower heads, which will reduce water consumption, the company said.

“We are really excited to participate in the whole transformation,” said Bridge Housing executive vice president Ann Silverberg.

Work will continue while the building is occupied, Silverberg said, with residents temporarily relocated as work moves from floor to floor.

Although Gov. Jerry Brown two years ago dissolved the state’s 400 redevelopment agencies, which uses local tax increment funds to invest in urban renewal, Dozier said the elimination has had little effect on the housing authority. SHRA operates more than 3,300 public housing units throughout the city and county.

The Washington Plaza project, costing $23 million, was financed with low-income tax credits and federal funds.

“The loss of redevelopment is a loss in terms of having an additional funding source in our tool kit to help with the financing for these types of projects,” Dozier said. “So it is something that hasn’t had a huge impact on the housing authority.”

Still, the end of redevelopment money has become a challenge of sorts for agencies looking to invest in their communities, Dozier said.

“When you look at the state, we are trying to see what is going to be the replacement for what was lost with affordable housing through redevelopment,” she said. “We are just hopeful that we can come up with a permanent solution for affordable housing.”

Residents were told about the retrofitting plans almost a year ago, and were given help to find new housing options within 90 days.

SHRA offered to pay some moving expenses, including rent at a new residence. Some occupants plan to live with family and friends, Dozier said.

Virginia Coffman, a 14-year tenant, said the transition period has gone smoothly. “It’s been a real blessing,” she said.

David Grove, a 23-year resident who lives on the fifth floor of the building, is scheduled to move to the Governor’s Square Apartments on Third Street next month.

While he looks forward to the modern amenities at his new digs, Grove said he can’t wait to return to the plaza apartments.

“I got Wi-Fi, a steam room, cable and a swimming pool,” he joked. “But I like living here. It has an institutionalized feel (now), but it will have that warm and fuzzy look when it is all finished.”

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