Congressman Scott Peters

Representing the 52nd District of California

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Renovated affordable senior housing reopens

Apr 4, 2016
In The News
SAN DIEGO — Having recently moved back into her newly renovated unit at San Diego Square, Isara Garrett said she had only one word for the officials who have helped keep her downtown home affordable.
“That word is grateful,” said Garrett, 71. “I am so grateful for my brand-new apartment. My little dog Snoopy and I love living here.”

Garrett and 153 other seniors were displaced for about three weeks while top-to-bottom renovations were made to the 37-year-old building at 1055 9th Ave. She was among the guests at a ceremonial ribbon-cutting Monday to reopen the building.

Besides having newly painted units and other amenities, residents of San Diego Square have the peace of mind that they may never have to move out because of a rent increase.

“This is where I will spend the rest of my life, and I’m so grateful that the people of San Diego care enough about seniors who have worked all their lives,” Garrett said. “That you care enough about us to give us something like this to enjoy, to uplift us, to make us feel cared about.”

Affordable housing will be guaranteed in the building until 2079 through a lease agreement with the city that kicked in when the building was sold in 2014.

Before and after photos show exterior renovations to San Diego Square made under its new ownership.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development also has recently extended by 20 years its rental assistance program that has provided vouchers for San Diego Square residents since the building opened in 1979. The assistance program was scheduled to expire in January 2014, but HUD extended it through Oct. 26, 2034 after the sale of the building.

San Diego Square had been owned by Kind Corp., a nonprofit run by Mavoureen O’Connor, the twin sister of former San Diego Mayor Maureen O’Connor.

Kind Corp., which had leased the building’s site from the city for $1 a year, sold San Diego Square to the San Diego Housing Commission and its nonprofit affiliate, Housing Development Partnership, in a partnership with the San Diego chapter of Local Initiatives Support Corporation, a national nonprofit that invests in affordable housing and community development initiatives.

Under the new agreement, the city received a one-time $4 million lease payment from the building’s owners. The payment was allocated to the city’s Housing Our Heroes initiative to transition 1,000 homeless veterans off the street.

Future lease payments on the property will be considerably less, but over six decades they will bring in money the city can use for similar projects, Mayor Kevin Faulconer said Monday.

“This is just a beginning,” Faulconer said. “Over the next 65 years, these funds will help the city provide additional affordable housing for low-income and homeless San Diegans.”

San Diego City Councilman Todd Gloria, whose district includes downtown, said he was excited to be at the celebration of San Diego Square’s first renovation since 1979.

“Which, for the record, happens to be one year after I was born,” he said, adding some perspective to the long-overdue renovation.

Gloria also noted that there soon would be about 500 affordable units within a block of San Diego Square. Those include 72 at the Hotel Churchill, now being renovated, and 250 at Celadon at 9th and Broadway.

Richard Gentry, president of CEO of the San Diego Housing Commission, said the commission’s properties for seniors also include 250 units at Belden Village and 120 at the nearby Village North Senior Garden Apartments in Clairemont, 120 units at the Sandford Hotel on 5th Avenue, and 79 units at New Palace Hotel, also on 5th Avenue.

Gentry said about 60,000 people in the county have applied for affordable housing, and about half are seniors.
At San Diego Square, 122 units are reserved for people at least 62 years old with annual incomes of about $40,800 for a two-person household, or 60 percent or less than the area’s median income.

Thirty-two units are reserved for seniors whose income is $34,000 a year, or 50 percent or less than the area median income.