Tulare County supes take more steps to build housing, fight homelessness

On January 7 the Tulare County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to adopt a resolution approving $25 million in tax-exempt bonds towards the Sequoia Commons II Apartments project located at 31161 Florence Avenue in Goshen.

The project will create 60 affordable rental units, including six units for regularly homeless families. According to the Program Director of Restate Development for Self-Help Enterprises, Betsy McGovern-Garcia, construction will begin in July and will be available for tenants in 2021.

The complex will include a 3,500-square-foot community center with a computer lab and kitchen. It will also include a vegetable garden. All of this will be provided so that partners like C-Set, Family Services and Kaweah Delta can provide services such as cooking classes, obesity education, and health screenings.

Supervisor Eddie Valero commented on Self-Help Enterprises’ consistent work in meeting the need for affordable housing and thanked his colleagues on the board for their support. “Since I’ve been on the board Self-Help Enterprises has made a rigorous effort to build more affordable housing in Tulare County…This wouldn’t be possible without the attention, willingness, and backing of the board. It is much appreciated.”

Supervisor Amy Shuklian echoed Valero’s words, praising Self-Help Enterprises for continuing to create projects for affordable housing not only in Goshen, but also in Porterville.

According to the CEO of Self-Help Enterprises, Tom Collishaw, the organization has created around 16,000 affordable housing units thus far.

Self-Help has partnered with the Tule River Housing Authority for a Porterville project that will provide 40 units of rental housing for tribe members.

This will be its 35th rental housing complex, with 700 more units in the pipeline and 200 currently under construction. There are projects in Dinuba, Lindsay, Farmersville, and Visalia, that include 22 beds for bridge housing designed to assist people who are experiencing homelessness.

The project list and unit numbers are impressive, but Self-Help Enterprise faces many time consuming obstacles with each project.

Collishaw explained that construction costs have been rising as high as 10-15% annually because of the lack of construction workers. The organization has struggled to find qualified people to do the work. And subcontractors are so highly sought out that prices are not only high, but booking dates are extensive.

Then there’s the scarcity of resources. Self-Help Enterprises gets much of its funding from subsidies. It therefore has to compete with other larger cities like Los Angeles and Bakersfield for funding. Even when it manages to receive funding, the money isn’t immediately available and can take nearly two years to arrive.

Finally, there are still some communities that carry misconceptions when they hear the words “affordable” and “low income,” making the process more cumbersome when attempting to establish a project in those areas.

It’s for these reasons that a project can take many years before even breaking ground. The Dinuba and Lindsay projects, for example, have been in the works since 2013.

“It doesn’t happen overnight,” McGovern-Garcia admitted. “Which I think is frustrating for some people in the community who want to see immediate solutions.”

To put the demand in perspective, the first set of apartments created in the Goshen area (Sequoia Commons I) was completed last month and it was 100% occupied by the first week of January. That’s 66 units leased in just one weekend.

Despite the overwhelming demand and challenges, Self-Help has been building more affordable housing in the county than ever before.

“This is why we exist as an organization,” McGovern-Garcia said. “It’s our communities. We believe high quality affordable housing can shift the future of a family. We believe children should have a safe place to grow, learn, and be healthy. It’s our commitment to our projects that help bring them to fruition.”

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