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City flips homes for low-income housing
Turlock first in county to implement Housing First model for homeless
housing pic
Low-income homeowners can apply for a property tax postponement. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER / The Journal

Popular television shows like "Fixer Upper" and "Flip or Flop" show how motivated real estate professionals can turn the worst house on the block into a model home for a nice profit. The City of Turlock is now getting into the flipping business —  not to make money, but to help low-income families become homeowners.

The City will soon be buying, rehabilitating and selling a number of homes to low-income families and partnering with nonprofit organizations to help those in need.

Turlock is continually working on increasing the number of affordable housing units available in town — through projects like Crane Terrace, a senior apartment complex on Canal Drive, and the Avena Bella development on Linwood Avenue — as the area has a significant housing shortage. 

Houses for sale in Turlock don't remain on the market for long — average days on the market for the 20 pending properties this week were 32 days and 23 days for the 14 properties that closed. Prices are also on the rise,  the median price for last six months was $275,000 versus $266,250 in 2015 — a family of four at 80 percent of the median income makes $47,000 and can only afford a mortgage of $105,000.

In the past the City offered down payment assistance to low-income families looking to become homeowners. While the down payment assistance helped many first time homeowners get into a house, some of those families weren't able to sustain their mortgage payments and went into default. This reality caused Assistant to the City Manager for Economic Development and Housing Maryn Pitt to seek out new strategies for helping low-income families secure housing.

The City is now in the process of purchasing and rehabilitating a number of homes on the westside of town that will be sold to low-income families at a lower principle. The City has either purchased or is in the process of purchasing houses and apartment complexes on Vermont Avenue, Butte Way, Farr Street and A Street.

"We're not competing with investors, but buying things that investors are not interested in," said Pitt.

Many of the homes are run-down and need a lot of rehabilitation, like the Vermont house.

"This is a street in the past that has not had great activity. Planting additional home owners helps transition those neighborhoods," said Pitt.

Some of the renovated homes will be available for low-income residents to purchase, while others the City will partner with nonprofits to provide housing and shelter services. The City Council is expected to consider in July a partnership with Haven Women's Center to use one of the rehabilitated homes as a women and children safe shelter.

One project in the works sees turning the eight-unit complex on A Street into transitional housing services for local homeless residents.

"This is a Housing First model — put them in housing first and then wrap services around them. We will be the first city in the county to do a Housing First model," said Pitt.

In addition to the house rehabilitations, the City is applying for a grant to fund Phase 2 of the Avena Bella low-income apartment complex on Linwood Avenue.

"We're hoping by February to break ground on an additional 60 units," said Pitt.

All of these projects will be funded through Turlock's HOME Consortium, which receives approximately $900,000 annually from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.  There is a two-year period in which to commit funds and Turlock needs to commit to spending approximately $1.4 million before Aug. 30.