San Bernardino is preparing to complete the fourth phase of an affordable housing project that it began about a dozen years ago.
All it needs to make that happen is some help from the federal government.
Arrowhead Grove – formerly called Waterman Gardens – will convert a 40-acre site that has been set aside for public housing since the early 1940s into a community with 534 housing units, according to a report compiled by the San Bernardino County Housing Authority.
The project site – bordered by Baseline Street to the north, Olive Street to the south, La Junta Street to the east, and Waterman Avenue to the west – will include single-family detached homes, multifamily and mixed-use units, and a community center.
Besides hosting public gatherings, the Arrowhead Grover Community Resource Center will lease office space to nonprofits that will provide services to low-income residents. A community kitchen and community garden will be established there, and San Francisco-based Dignity Health, a nonprofit and one of California’s largest healthcare providers, plans to operate a healthcare center.
Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-San Bernardino, last year secured $3 million in state funding for the construction of the community center.
“Arrowhead Grove is a model example of an affordable housing project that includes different income levels and can be financially viable,” said Jeff Kraus, San Bernardino’s public information officer, in a statement.
Arrowhead Grove will also served by several community resources that will help low-income residents: two Omnitrans stops are set up within its borders, as are Neal Roberts Elementary School and a Head Start preschool site.
Multiple automobile parts and repair businesses – potential places of employment – are immediately south of the project, and the 44-acre Seccombe Lake Recreation Area is nearby.
So far, 332 residential units have been completed since the city, with an assist from the housing authority, began developing Arrowhead Grove. The first two phases, Valencia Vista and Olive Meadow opened in December 2016 and September 2017, respectively.
Both were developed by National Core, a nonprofit that develops and owns affordable housing, with an assist from the county housing authority. A third phase has been completed since then.
Like most California cities, San Bernardino is working to keep up with state mandates to build more housing, and Arrowhead Grove is part of that effort.
“There is an urgent need for a project like this in San Bernardino,” said Rishad Mitha, the housing authority’s deputy executive director. “If we don’t start building affordable housing, not just in San Bernardino but everywhere, then we’ll just be adding to the homeless problem.”
Phase Four will have 92 units that will priced for people whose incomes are at 80 percent of the area median income or below. It will be paid for with a loan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s housing grant program, which the city and the housing authority have applied for.
Phase Four is expected to cost $5.2 million to complete. Ultimately, the entire project – which will take seven phases to finish – will help San Bernardino meet its obligations under the California Regional Housing Needs Assessment.
Better known as RHNA, that program requires local governments to build enough residential units to meet their future housing needs, with that number determined by the state Department of Housing and Community Development.
San Bernardino must provide 8,123 residential units for the current RHNA cycle, which started two years ago and will end in 2029. Of those, 2,512 units – about 31 percent of the total units required – must be affordable to low-income residents.
Arrowhead Grove will help San Bernardino meet that goal, albeit in a small way, according to Councilman Theodore Sanchez.
“It’s not a lot of units, but it’s a step in the right direction,” said Sanchez, who represents San Bernardino’s first ward, in which Arrowhead Grove is located “A lot of families in the city can’t afford to to buy a home. This is a high-density project that should help change that. Over time it could have a major impact.”
Perhaps, but it’s up against a major obstacle, namely San Bernardino’s long history of housing problems, something the housing authority report assesses bluntly.
“Historically, the city of San Bernardino has faced daunting housing and homelessness challenges, exacerbated by a high poverty rate and paucity of affordable housing options,” the report states. “The city … faces an acute demand for affordable housing, a crisis mirrored in the numbers and further reinforced by the state mandate meant to tackle housing issues.
The biggest problem is affordability; a single-family home would cost nearly 13 times the median family income, a major reason why nearly 70 percent of the city’s households rent, rather than own, their living space.
Approximately 20 percent of San Bernardino’s nearly 60,000 households spend more than half their monthly earning on household expenses, while another 16 percent spend more than 30 percent of their monthly income on household costs, numbers the report called “disconcerting.”
“There are lot of challenges on a project like this, starting with funding, but there’s been good cooperation between the city and the authority,” Mitha said. “Our role is to get people into affordable housing before they become homeless, and that’s what we’re going to do here.”