Resort Town’s First Affordable Apartments

Resort town has watershed moment with first affordable housing community.

Big Bear Lake, Calif.—Big Bear Lake, Calif., is well known to Californians as a resort paradise, tempting folks with ski slopes in the winter and water sports in warm weather. Affordable housing is much needed for the workforce population serving the vacationers.

For that reason, The Crossings at Big Bear Lake represents a watershed moment for the city. Developed by Urban Housing Communities LLC (UHC) and designed by KTGY Group, Inc., Architecture + Planning, the $17 million project is the first affordable housing in Big Bear Lake expressly designed for families.

The Crossings at Big Bear Lake, featuring 28 two-bedroom, two-story town homes and 14 three-bedroom single-story flats, opened in September after a 13-month construction period. “This is a good fit, because there are lots of people who work in the restaurants, boutiques and hotels in the area, and they need this type of housing,” UHC chief operating officer John Bigley tells MHN.

“The city is trying to attract more hotels. When [hotel companies] come to look, they want to know whether there is housing stock for the workers.”

The development is intended for families earning between 30 and 60 percent of area median income. Rent ranges from $377 to $950 per month.

Not only was The Crossings at Big Bear Lake designed to accommodate families, its location was chosen with families in mind, Bigley says. It is across the street from Big Bear Lake Elementary School, and within walking distance of the “Village” district of Big Bear Lake, a retail enclave where some of the residents will work, and others will visit for shopping and entertainment.

The Crossings at Big Bear Lake also has a 2,500-square-foot community center, providing after-school and health and wellness programs to residents.

The design and construction of the housing is intended to reflect its environs, says Chris Texter, AIA, LEED AP and principal of KTGY. Heavy timber wood gable end framing, stone veneer and siding and large roof overhangs are among the rugged features harmonizing with the town‘s rustic architecture.

“Any time we go into a community, we design our product to fit the setting,” Bigley says. “We don’t want to stick out, we want to blend in and enhance the architectural style already in the area. For this particular climate, we developed a building without exterior stairwells, which is important in winter.”

The development is also environmentally friendly, featuring tankless water heaters, increased insulation, energy efficient appliances and windows and ceiling fans in all primary rooms, Bigley says. Hardwood floors offer enhanced durability while also delivering a healthier indoor environment.

Solar power is used in the community center and for the community’s exterior lighting, and community center furnishings are of recycled materials.

“This is a LEED-qualified building,” Bigley adds. “We didn’t go for the certification, because it costs money to get there, and we preferred putting that money into other aspects of the development.”

Residents of The Crossings at Big Bear Lake will be able to dispense with autos for many errands. The community is near biking trails, as well as a bus stop where residents can catch a bus to the Village district and other points.

UHC partnered with the City of Big Bear Lake’s Improvement Agency to increase the affordable housing stock. The agency committed funding through a soft loan, while UHC secured financing through the highly competitive nine percent tax credit program. Additional financing came from the Bank of America Community Development Corporation, Bank of America, National Equity Fund and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

All involved in the development term the opening of The Crossings at Big Bear Lake a major victory for the town it calls home. Says Bigley: “It helps position the city for growth, and provides a safe and affordable, quality living environment for many of the families of the community. That will help them improve their lives, and help them achieve their goals for their children.”