LA Affordable Housing Development Opens on School District Land

Rio Vista Apartments, the first joint-use development in Los Angeles County that combines affordable housing and an Early Education Center on school district surplus land, has opened.

Los Angeles—Rio Vista Apartments, the first joint-use development in Los Angeles County that combines affordable housing and an Early Education Center on school district surplus land, has opened. The 50-unit property is in the Glassell Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, a largely working-class district about five miles north of downtown that saw some gentrification before the recession.

The residential portion of the property, designed and developed by Abode Communities, offers new two- and three-bedroom rental units to families earning between 30 percent and 60 percent of the area median income (between $19,200 and $38,400). On-site amenities include property management, various resident services, laundry facilities, a community room, a computer lab and a rooftop garden. The residential component shares two levels of parking with a future Early Education Center, to be developed by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and designed by Gonzalez Goodale Architects.

Rio Vista Apartments also has the distinction of being quite green. It’s the third development in Abode Communities’ portfolio to achieve a LEED for Homes platinum rating, the highest possible. Sustainable features include reclaimed municipal water irrigation, solar water heating and a rooftop garden, among others.

The development drew on a number of funding sources, as typical for affordable housing. Financing for the $27 million residential portion, including the parking garage, was provided through private tax credit equity loans by U.S. Bank, U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corp., the Los Angeles Housing Department and the California Department of Housing and Community Development. LAUSD is a major underwriter in the project, providing a 66-year ground-lease and supporting the joint development with an equity contribution. The development also utilized funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Federal HOME Investment Partnerships Program.

Robin Hughes, president and CEO of Abode Communities, warns that funding for future developments of this kind is becoming more difficult. “The loss of low and moderate redevelopment housing dollars, the significant reduction in federal HOME funds, and the absence of new local housing trust funds will cause a significant reduction of affordable housing in the near term,” Hughes tells MHN. “As we experience a reduction in the production of new affordable housing, we’ll focus our efforts on physically enhancing and maintaining affordability throughout our existing portfolio, with the renovation of several projects in the years to come.”